By: Brennen Krikorian
Slowly but surely the sports world is getting back to normal. Although the date is later than usual, the NFL Draft will commence tomorrow night in Cleveland.
No longer will we have to watch Roger Goodell host the draft in his “man cave,” as this year’s draft will be in-person, meaning more bear hugs from offensive linemen and louder boos raining down from faithful fans.
With the extensive possibility of draft night trades, a first-round mock draft seems like a hopeless cause. Instead, we take a look at what each team needs to do during the first round.
San Fransisco 49ers: Take Trey Lance over Mac Jones
With that piece of information, the Niners have to take Lance. Last season, the 49ers posted the second worst turnover ratio in the league, finishing at -11. In order to fix that problem, you have to get a guy who is going to take care of the football and allow for longer possessions.
In 2019, Lance’s last full season, he threw zero interceptions and was sacked only 12 times through 287 passing attempts. Is Lance playing against less talent than Mac Jones? Yes, but he is also playing with less talent. His ball security and awareness in the pocket is overpowering when it comes to this decision and it makes him the right pick in this spot.
Chicago Bears: Position yourself to get a QB next year
It seems as if the Bears have been cursed ever since they traded up to take Mitch Trubisky over guys like Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. This past offseason, they finally cut ties with Trubisky and brought in Andy Dalton on a one-year deal to be the new starter.
The Bears can’t try to fix their mistake this season. Getting a quarterback now would only send them into another purgatory. Instead, they need to get an offensive lineman who can be a building block for someone new under center next season.
A guy like Alijah Vera-Tucker could pay huge dividends, as there are currently no Chicago tackles signed through this season. He would also be an enticing piece for a future QB looking to come to Chicago.
Cincinnati Bengals: Give Joe Burrow some protection
During last year’s draft, Joe Burrow was handed the keys to the kingdom, as the Bengals took him first overall. While he displayed true promise in his first few games, his season ended early due to a torn ACL.
If Cincinnati truly wants a return on its quarterback investment, the Bengals have to give him some protection, making Penei Sewell the no-brainer selection at No. 5.
Despite sitting out this past season, Sewell is still an elite-level tackle who will contribute from day one. During his sophomore season, he received the highest single-season lineman grade in recorded history. This man is the real deal and should be the only name on Cincinnati’s big board.
Buffalo Bills: Trade down to the second round
The Buffalo Bills have been one of the highest risers in terms of team success over the past two seasons, and they are looking to continue that trajectory this year.
While they could use their 30th overall pick to take a player for their secondary, it seems to be in their best interest to trade down and get someone in the second round.
Offensive weapons like Dyami Brown and Travis Etienne might pose some interest to them, but both are options that will be available early in the second round and will have cheaper rookie contracts in that spot.
Denver Broncos: Trade up, but not for a quarterback
The Denver Broncos are in an interesting spot with the ninth overall pick. Rumors indicate they may want to trade up for a QB if one of them falls to Carolina at eight. While they should trade up a spot, it shouldn’t be for a quarterback, it should be for Micah Parsons.
Von Miller is getting older and while he is still a dominant force, he could really use a counterpart on the defensive side of the ball. Parsons is far and away the best linebacker in the draft and with his ability to get into the backfield, he could make a name for himself early in this league.
Although Drew Lock may not be the long-term answer behind center, he is still young and has too much potential to give up on at this point in time. Get Vic Fangio another building block on defense and worry about a quarterback later once they truly know what they have in Lock.
Cleveland Browns: Don’t look for best player available
Last year, the Cleveland Browns showed they could be a real contender if they are fully healthy. Guys like Odell Beckham Jr., Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett are some of the best players at their position and are only getting better as a team.
With the 26th pick, the Browns have an opportunity to wait to see what the teams ahead of them do and take the best player available. However, it seems to be in their best interest to get a difference maker in the middle of the field, regardless of who is still on the board.
Zaven Collins has a natural ability to play in coverage and has size and strength to make big plays. Jamin Davis might be the best overall athlete defensively in the draft, posting a 4.40 40-yard dash and a 42-inch vertical. At least one of these two should be available at pick 26, and it’s up to Cleveland to stay focused on getting one of them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Look for a project player
When you win the Super Bowl, you tend to have a pretty solidified roster heading into the next season. The Buccaneers may have taken that to the next level.
Tampa Bay has all 22 of its starters returning for next season, meaning there are no real holes for a rookie to fill.
This seems like a situation where general manager Jason Licht takes a project guy who can learn from the veterans and be a valuable future asset. A player like Alim McNeill could be a perfect fit since he has a similar build and playstyle akin to aging veteran Ndamukong Suh.
Arizona Cardinals: Don’t get tempted by wide receivers
With the 16th pick, the Arizona Cardinals will have the ability to fluctuate their needs based on the picks prior to them. In a very possible scenario, general manager Steve Keim could have either Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith or Ja’Marr Chase still on the board.
With the offseason signing of A.J. Green, it is imperative that the Cardinals don’t get caught up in the flash that is the wide receiver position. Instead, they should look to bolster their defense, targeting guys such as Jaycee Horn or Zaven Collins.
Los Angeles Chargers: Follow in the Bengals’ footsteps
Last season, the Los Angeles Chargers might have been the overall draft night winners, getting franchise quarterback Justin Herbert with their first round pick. Now that they have the guy under center, it’s time to build around him.
While it would be great to get Herbert’s former college teammate Penei Sewell, there is no chance Cincinnati is passing him up. However, they should keep the same mindset as the Bengals.
Rashawn Slater and Christian Darrisaw are both pretty good options for the Chargers at No. 13. Slater opted out of the 2020 season, which may give the edge to Darrisaw in this situation, but either way, Herbert will be grateful to have one of them protecting him upfront for the next few years.
Kansas City Chiefs: Do nothing
The Kansas City Chiefs have already traded away their first-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for OL Orlando Brown Jr.
This seems like a smart trade for Kansas City, as there was going to be nobody that would help them return to the Super Bowl this season at No. 31. Brown offers solid protection to Mahomes and increases the Chiefs’ chances of making it back to the big game.
Indianapolis Colts: Find replacement players
If this article had been written a few months ago, Indianapolis would be a prime candidate to trade up for a quarterback. Now that Carson Wentz has filled that position, it’s time for Indy to replace some other key spots.
With the 21st pick, it’s going to be tough to find a true long-term replacement for either of those guys, but there are some viable options. Walker Little and Gregory Rousseau have both seen their stock drop because of injuries and opt-outs, making for high-risk, high-reward selections since they have shown serious potential at the college level.
Dallas Cowboys: Find a way to get a cornerback
Last season, the Cowboys had an abysmal year on the defensive side of the ball, allowing the third most passing touchdowns, while only tallying 10 total interceptions.
While this Dallas offense is solid with a healthy Dak Prescott, it isn’t good enough to put up 40 points per game in a shootout every week. With the corner talent in this draft, it is imperative that Jerry Jones can find a piece for the secondary.
Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley are both more than talented enough to fill that position for Dallas, but don’t be surprised if a trade on draft night sends Patriots star corner Stephon Gilmore to the Cowboys in exchange for a package that includes the 10th overall pick.
Miami Dolphins: Pick the receiver you like most
The Miami Dolphins showed some significant progress this past season under head coach Brian Flores and now that they have their QB of the future in Tua Tagovailoa, it’s time to surround him with weapons.
Currently, the Dolphins have DeVante Parker, Will Fuller and Preston Williams listed as their top three receivers headed into next season. While their talents are all serviceable, they won’t be able to push the needle into playoff contention.
Sitting at pick No. 6, it is expected that they will have the first choice at the receiver position, and while you can’t go wrong with any of the top choices, the one that makes the most sense is DeVonta Smith due to his familiarity with Tagovailoa.
Philadelphia Eagles: Take the receiver that is still there
The Eagles have had an issue finding themselves a true No. 1 receiver over the past few seasons ever since DeSean Jackson left. Whether it be the Nelson Agholor memes or the mistake of taking Jalen Reagor right before Justin Jefferson, GM Howie Roseman can’t afford to have another mishap.
Roseman also needs to prove that moving forward with Jalen Hurts was the right decision. By getting a receiver who can boost Hurts’ numbers, everyone’s reputation can be bolstered.
This is why Jaylen Waddle needs to be the selection if he is still there at No. 12. Waddle and Hurts have a connection that goes back to college and a reliable security blanket in Waddle can drastically improve Hurts’ confidence in the pocket.
Atlanta Falcons: Take Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts might be the most unique and dominant player in this draft. His 96.2 PFF grade was by far the best tight end grade ever given out. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Pitts has the size, speed and catching ability to be one of the best at his position right out of the gate.
With Julio Jones and Matt Ryan approaching the end of their careers in Atlanta, getting a guy like Pitts can make the transition much smoother, and his ability to score in the red zone will improve a massive weakness in this Falcons offense.
New York Giants: Trade down for assets
Although the Giants were relatively disappointing this past season, there are some things to look forward to headed into 2021. Saquon Barkley is set to return following a torn ACL and the addition of Kenny Golladay gives Daniel Jones a much-needed deep threat.
Sitting at pick 11, the Giants aren’t going to find a guy with both the impact and value that they are looking for. In their best interest, New York should look to trade out of that spot and try to get a solid edge rusher later on. Perhaps a team like Pittsburgh could be interested as they look to make a final push with their current core.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Take Trevor Lawrence, Trevon Moehrig
Trevor Lawrence has been the best player in college football for the past two seasons and nothing is going to change heading into draft night. Consider it a lock that Lawrence becomes a Jaguar.
Looking ahead to the 25th overall pick, Trevon Moehrig-Woodard stands out as a perfect fit for the Jacksonville. Last year, the Jaguars were able to get C.J. Henderson to fill a hole at CB, and this year their hole on defense is at the safety position. Moehrig is by far the best safety in this class and is exactly what Urban Meyer is looking for on his new team.
New York Jets: Take Zach Wilson, Greg Newsome II
It seems like a foregone conclusion that the New York Jets will be selecting Zach Wilson with their second overall pick. Wilson has separated himself from the field (aside from Lawrence) and with the departure of Sam Darnold, it is a guarantee that New York grabs a quarterback.
As for their other first-round pick, Greg Newsome II seems like the right choice for the Jets. Caleb Farley definitely has more potential than Newsome, but the leg injuries for Farley makes the risk too high for a team that desperately needs to hit on all the picks they have.
Detroit Lions: Trade down, get a receiver
The Detroit Lions have already had more than enough success in this offseason, trading away long-time QB Matt Stafford in exchange for Jared Goff and two future first-round picks. They might as well continue that trend and stockpile even more assets.
Sitting at the seventh pick, Detroit could easily get a top-tier receiver and be content with that selection. However, this draft has a ton of talent at the receiver position and the Lions could still have a chance at getting a guy they like in the middle of the first round. A team like the Patriots could make an enticing offer to Detroit that would help out both organizations.
Green Bay Packers: Get Davante Adams his sidekick
Last year, the Green Bay Packers shocked everyone by taking Jordan Love in the first round. Hearing questions about his future, Aaron Rodgers decided to quiet the noise by winning MVP in the 2020 season.
This year, the Packers need to do what they should’ve done last season and draft a receiver to play alongside Davante Adams. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were decent when they were on the field last year, but neither of them have shown they can be a significant impact players.
Getting a player at No. 29 like Rashod Bateman, who is used to playing in cold-weather situations, can not only preserve Aaron Rodgers’ career, but also set the tone for the future of the Love era in Green Bay. Assuming Bateman isn’t there at 29, look for guys like Elijah Moore and Rondale Moore.
Carolina Panthers: Give Sam Darnold a real chance
A few weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers made the move to acquire former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold from the New York Jets.
With Carolina currently sitting at No. 8, a lot of speculation has come out that they may look to draft a quarterback and potentially give up on Darnold before he even takes a snap.
Although he hasn’t lived up to his No. 3 overall selection, Darnold is still only 23 years old and will have the chance to play with the most talent he’s ever had in Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, as well as former Jet Robby Anderson.
Look for the Panthers to either take a corner like Patrick Surtain II or to trade down to allow another team to take a quarterback.
New England Patriots: Trade up for Justin Fields
The New England Patriots are entering their second season of uncharted territory. Prior to last season, they never had to worry about who would be taking snaps under center. With Tom Brady out of the mix and Cam Newton showing some concerns in the 2020 season, it’s time for head coach Bill Belichick to get his new guy.
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson seem like locks to be the first two quarterbacks off the board, and either Mac Jones or Trey Lance is going to San Fransisco at three, leaving Justin Fields as the one question mark.
While Belichick and Saban have a strong connection, Jones isn’t the answer for New England. Fields has more natural talent and can learn much more from Newton than Jones can.
Previously mentioned teams like the Panthers and Lions could definitely be interested in making a deal with New England, especially if Stephon Gilmore’s name is in the mix.
Las Vegas Raiders: Bolster the offensive line
If anyone were to make an outside the box pick at 17, it would be Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden. However, this doesn’t seem like the year that will happen.
The Raiders have done a great job over the last few drafts in getting everything they can for quarterback Derek Carr, whether it be Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs III or Kolton Miller. This year, they should have that same mindset and grab another tackle to play opposite of Miller.
Previously mentioned Walker Little has a PAC-12 connection with Miller which could be enticing, and Teven Jenkins was excellent in the run game during his college career. Both of these guys would be great fits in Gruden’s offense.
Los Angeles Rams: Don’t force yourself back into round one
Back in 2019, the Rams sent two first-round draft picks (including this year’s pick at 25) to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey.
Following the most recent trade sending Matt Stafford to LA, Rams general manager Les Snead should be content with foregoing the first round and moving on to their later picks.
This Rams team is pretty solidified and using more assets to get back into the first round will hurt them far more than it will help them.
Baltimore Ravens: Don’t use both first-round picks
As stated in the Kansas City portion, the Baltimore Ravens acquired pick No. 31 in exchange for OL Orlando Brown Jr. Now picking at both 27 and 31, the Ravens have some decisions to make.
This Ravens team is capable of making a deep playoff run and they have shown that in last season’s win over Tennessee. With this team looking to go even deeper in the postseason, two late first-round picks aren’t going to provide much help.
Baltimore should look to trade one of those first-round picks and use the other on someone who can fill a hole either defensively, or on the offensive line.
New Orleans Saints: Pray Christian Barmore falls
The New Orleans Saints are going to experience something they haven’t known for 15 years: a team without Drew Brees. While those are huge shoes to fill, it is not a priority for the front office.
Sheldon Rankins is no longer a Saint, leaving a huge need for an interior defensive lineman. This is where Christian Barmore comes in. At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Barmore is a physical monster and if he can learn from experienced rush defenders like Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis, his potential can skyrocket.
Seattle Seahawks: Target Baltimore’s first-round pick
The Seahawks traded away their first-round pick in a deal that helped them acquire safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets, which they shouldn’t regret in the slightest. In his first season in Seattle, Adams had a career-high in sacks (9.5) and QB hits (14).
Now without a pick, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks call up Baltimore for their 31st overall pick. As previously stated, Baltimore has no use for that pick, and if Seattle can turn it into a linebacker like Jamin Davis, it could go a long way for the future of the franchise.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Don’t overthink a James Conner replacement
James Conner had been the lead man in the Pittsburgh backfield for the past three seasons, but has decided to join the Cardinals in free agency, leaving the Steelers without a workhorse running back. This has led to numerous mock drafts zoning in on Najee Harris as the replacement.
It’s time to move away from that thought. Benny Snell was a monster at Kentucky and can hold his own as a primary back in this league for the short term. In a class with weak top-end running back talent, Harris is not worth a desperation pick in the first round. The Steelers should look to bolster their offensive line and search for a running back in the mid-to-late rounds.
Houston Texans: Preserve the few assets you have
If you were to look up dumpster fire in the dictionary, there is a strong possibility that the Houston Texans logo would appear alongside it. For the past two seasons, it seems as if the Texans are intentionally trying to get in their own way.
Houston doesn’t own their first-round pick this year, as it was included in a trade to acquire LT Laremy Tunsil from the Dolphins, meaning in the last two years they have lost their top two receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, their captain on defense J.J. Watt and what would have been a top-three pick.
Oh yeah, and their franchise quarterback wants nothing to do with them.
Houston can’t look to get back into this first round. Instead, they need to keep the picks and assets they have and hope they can find some diamonds in the rough later on in the draft.
Tennessee Titans: Give Tannehill another weapon
When imagining a Mike Vrabel-coached offense, a slot receiver is not the first position that comes to mind. The stereotypical strength over finesse gameplan has provided a great deal of success to start out Vrabel’s head coaching career in Tennessee.
While that mindset may work fine, why not add another element to Tennessee’s game? Elijah Moore should be the pick for the Titans at 22. Although he is only 5-foot-9, Moore has the speed and catching ability to make him a reliable slot receiver next to A.J. Brown.
This past season, the Ole Miss prospect hauled in over 73% of contested catches and 97% of catchable targets. His hands alone are worthy of a selection in this spot, not to mention he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash during his pro day.
Minnesota Vikings: Get pass protection for Kirk Cousins
Throughout his career, Kirk Cousins has run more play-action pass plays than just about anyone. While he excels in that aspect of his game, the Vikings offensive line has been unable to comply with his needs on numerous occasions.
In a perfect scenario, where health is not a concern, Wyatt Davis would be a dream fit in that offense. His natural pass-blocking ability is arguably the best among interior offensive linemen. Unfortunately, Davis has experienced multiple knee injuries which will most likely warrant him from getting selected on night one.
Due to those injuries, it may lead Minnesota to get aggressive and trade up for Alijah Vera-Tucker. Vera-Tucker is not a natural guard, but his shorter arm length and strong pass protection may provide him with a better situation if he moves over to the guard position.
Washington Football Team: Find versatility on defense
Washington may have been the most surprising team last season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Granted they played six games against the NFC East, this team allowed the second fewest yards per game as well as the second fewest passing touchdowns.
While you may say it’s best to use a first-round pick on a weakness rather than a strength, Washington seems like the outlier in this situation. Sitting at No. 19, Washington should have the choice at a few versatile linebackers that can make an impact in their rookie year, similarly, but not to the extent of, Chase Young.
Both Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Nick Bolton fit the descripted molds to a tee, and while they have very different physical builds, both seem like they can impact the game in multiple ways. Instinctive is a word that has been used to describe both players by multiple scouts, which is a great thing for a team that prides itself on stopping the opposing offense.
Cover photo via: NFL.com
Follow Edge Sports Network on Twitter: @TheEdgeSN
Follow Brennan Krikorian on Twitter: @KrikorianB15