The Jacksonville Jaguars are officially on the clock. While the result of the Super Bowl was not going to cause any movement in the top-10 picks, the NFL and all of its teams have fully turned their attention to the upcoming draft. With no combine this draft season, teams will rely on players’ performance from their previous seasons in college to make their selection. Here is the prediction of the top-10 picks following the conclusion of the season.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Many analysts have referred to the New York Jets selection at second overall as “where the draft really starts”. At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that the Jaguars will take Lawrence with the top pick.
The only new data we have on Lawrence is what scouts and analysts took away from the individual pro day that he conducted for NFL personnel on Feb. 12th. This impromptu workout was a month earlier than Clemson’s team pro day. Lawrence conducted this workout to throw for coaches before his surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. His recovery time from that injury would have meant he would have missed Clemson’s normal pro day.
Nonetheless, Lawrence looked great at the individual workout, which secured him the top spot in the draft.
2. New York Jets — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets have done a great job of disguising their intentions for the second overall pick. With a new head coach and many holes to fill, there are endless possibilities for what the Jets could do with this pick. In this particular mock, they select Wilson.
Wilson’s most impressive trait is his arm talent. He can make any throw on the field and has pinpoint precision while doing so. His passing grade on passes that were 20 yards or further downfield ranked in the 99th percentile. His release is quick and compact, and the ball absolutely flies out of his hand. He has also demonstrated the ability to squeeze the ball into tight windows.
While also possessing amazing arm strength, Wilson also maneuvers well in the pocket. He also has the toughness to pick up extra yards with his legs. Most quarterbacks are taught to slide and avoid taking an unnecessary hit from an oncoming safety. Wilson lives for the collision, which can be seen as a positive or negative depending on how one looks at it.
Wilson’s situation at BYU is one of his biggest red flags. During the 2020 season, BYU played 12 total games. Their record against ranked opponents was 1-1. The Cougars’ only loss of the season came against Coastal Carolina, who was ranked 18th. That loss was the only game of the season in which Wilson didn’t throw at least two touchdown passes.
Not only was Wilson matched up against mediocre opponents, but he was also playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the entire country. He was rarely under any significant pressure, and it is unclear how he will handle pressure from elite NFL pass rushers. Despite being untested against top-tier opponents, the Jets take a risk and ditch Darnold for the gunslinger Wilson.
3. Miami Dolphins — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
With all of the top receivers left on the board, it will be tempting for the Dolphins to snag either Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. The smarter selection is to take the mountain of a man that is Penei Sewell.
While offensive tackles never get the publicity that skill players receive, Sewell should be getting more attention. He is arguably the best offensive lineman prospect to come out of college in the last decade. The 2020 NFL Draft saw four offensive tackles drafted in the top 13 picks. There is a case to be made that Sewell would have been the top-rated tackle out of the four if he was draft-eligible that year. After Tua Tagovailoa struggled to find his groove for the Dolphins in his rookie season, getting Sewell with the third pick will give Tagovailoa peace of mind when in the pocket.
4. Atlanta Falcons — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields to the Falcons makes it three quarterbacks in the top four picks of the draft. The buzz surrounding Zach Wilson has meant that Fields has seen his stock fall a little bit. However, the Falcons could be a potential landing spot for Fields should he fall past the Jets.
While Wilson is unproven against top teams, Fields is the exact opposite. During the 2020 season, Fields led Ohio State to the College Football Playoffs, where they faced off against Clemson and Alabama. The Clemson game alone should justify his top-5 selection. Fields shredded a talented Tigers secondary, throwing for 385 yards and 6 touchdowns while completing an absurd 78.5% of his passes.
While the game against Alabama was less impressive stats-wise, the Ohio State defense put Fields in a poor position from the very beginning of the game. This meant that Fields was forcing throws and gaining yards in bulk, which does not play to his strengths.
The Falcons will look past his poor decision-making and bank on Fields upside. Matt Ryan has been solid for the Falcons; however, Atlanta will be looking for his successor as the former Boston College quarterback enters his 13th year in the league.
5. Cincinnati Bengals — Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The Bengals will be praying that Sewell falls to them at the fifth overall slot. If a team scoops him up before their selection, Slater from Northwestern is the next best option for a team in desperate need of offensive line help.
Slater has been a big part of the Wildcats offensive line for three years now. In his first two seasons with Northwestern, he started 26 games at right tackle and was apart of the team that won the Big Ten West. He transitioned over to left tackle for his junior year, where he did equally as well. During the 2019 season, Slater allowed zero sacks, one quarterback hit, and just five quarterback hurries from 787 snaps. Slater impressed scouts with his performance against former Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. Young was selected second overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
After playing both tackle positions in college, scouts are encouraged by Slaters’ versatility. He is extremely athletic and has a high football IQ. Despite playing tackle in college, analysts project Slater as a guard in the NFL. Standing at 6’3, Slaters’ arms may be too short for him to be a tackle at the next level.
Regardless of where he plays on the Bengals offensive line, he will be an upgrade at that position. Cincinnatis’ primary focus for the offseason is to find ways to keep Joe Burrow off the turf. Selecting Slater is a step in the right direction.
6. Philadelphia Eagles — Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
This election became a lot more interesting after the Eagles traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. While the quarterback situation in Philadelphia is foggy right now, it appears that the Eagles will give Jalen Hurts a chance to become their franchise quarterback. If that is the case, giving Hurts a receiver like Chase would definitely help the Eagles’ outlook.
The great debate of the draft is Devonta Smith vs. Ja’Marr Chase. Smith, this year’s Heisman winner, has a phenomenal season at Alabama this season. However, people seem to have forgotten how spectacular Chase was with LSU in 2019. Chase was by far the best receiver on the team, a team that included former first-round pick and rookie standout Justin Jefferson. The Eagles are in need of wide receivers, especially after the releases of DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Chase is the complete package and should be a no-brainer for the Eagles at 6.
7. Detriot Lions — Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Like the Eagles, the Lions have also moved on from their former franchise since the end of the season. Trading Matthew Stafford to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff means the Lions have found their quarterback for at least the next two years. While selecting a quarterback here is not totally out of the question, absorbing Goff’s contract to select a different quarterback prospect with their top-10 selection seems unlikely. Instead, they give Goff a true number one receiver in Smith.
Smith proved this last season he is the real deal. He was the Crimson Tides’ best weapon all season long and demonstrated spectacular play-making ability and elite speed. The only concern with Smith is his slender frame. Measuring in at just 170 pounds, his durability at the next level is something Lions must be wary of. However, the Lions cannot afford to pass up the opportunity of selecting a talent like Smith.
8. Carolina Panthers — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Crimson Tide stars go in back-to-back selections with this mock as Carolina finds their passer of the future in Mac Jones.
This selection comes after a strong showing by Jones at the senior bowl. In a Senior Bowl that lacked top-end quarterback talent, Jones separated himself from the pack. He demonstrated elite accuracy and a great understanding of the game, two traits we saw all season long at Alabama.
No one at the Senior Bowl got a better look at Jones than Carolina head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule was the coach for Jones’s team and saw first hand the leadership and confidence that Jones brings to a team. In a draft year where scouts and general managers will have little in-person interaction with prospects, having Rhule see Jones up close and personal for a week down at the Senior Bowl could be enough for Carolina to pull the trigger on Jones at 8.
The main concern for Jones is how his game will translate when throwing to receivers not named Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle. Jones ranked 2nd in the country in screen yards for the 2020 season. A lot of his passing yards were actually his receivers generating yards after the catch. Any team that selects Jones will have to determine whether Jones is capable of the same type of play regardless of the receivers he is playing with. While that is something that Carolina will keep in mind, his second-to-none accuracy and high football IQ will be enough for Carolina to justify his top-10 selection.
9. Denver Broncos — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Broncos are in a great position in this draft. Given the teams selecting in front of them, Denver will likely pick any of the top corners in the draft. This is huge, as addressing the secondary should be high on the priority list for this upcoming offseason. While the debate is between Farley and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain, the Broncos land on Farley in this particular mock.
An opt-out player, Farley showed teams all they needed to see during his 2019 season. His passing grade of 90.5 ranked as one of the highest of any corner in the class. He has good ball skills and elite recovery speed when making up ground on receivers. His biggest weakness is his play as a press corner. According to Pro Football Focus, Farley has only played 58 snaps in press coverage in his career. While there are ways to utilize him other than in press coverage, the Broncos will hope he can develop this skill to be a complete corner at the next level.
10. Dallas Cowboys — Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys make it three Alabama players selected in the top-10 with the selection of Surtain. Like the Broncos, the Cowboys are in a good spot to land one of the top-2 cornerbacks in the draft.
Despite not being an elite athlete, Surtain possesses a lot of promising traits. He has a very polished technique that he has perfected in three years at Alabama. He is patient in coverage and uses his lanky arms to break up catches at the catch point. The last Alabama cornerback the Cowboys drafted was Treveon Diggs, who they picked in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. Diggs had a very promising rookie season, and Dallas will hope that they can make it two solid cornerback picks in a row with the selection of Surtain.