Mike Tannenbaum NFL Mock Draft


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I love when the NFL draft rolls around each year, and wow, this 2021 class is loaded with talent. Teams have the chance to add true impact players right out of the gate in Round 1, whether it's a franchise quarterback, a dynamic wide receiver or a defensive game-changer.

Every NFL organization has its own draft board and prospect preferences, but today, I'm not concerned with any of their evaluations or rankings. I'll leave figuring out how Round 1 will actually play out to my guys Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Instead, I'm sliding back into the GM chair to map out how I'd make the picks if I was representing each of the 29 teams with at least one Day 1 selection. (Sorry Texans, Seahawks and Rams.)

It wasn't too long ago that I was playing a big role in the picks for the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets, and I know I would have been excited to write some of these prospects' names on the draft card. This is how I would roll through the first 32 picks if I was making the selections on April 29, starting with a no-brainer for new Jaguars GM Trent Baalke at No. 1 overall. And be sure to check out the Mock Draft SportsCenter Special on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2).

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

What is there even to discuss here? Lawrence is the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft class, and the Jaguars are very much in the quarterback market. I'm getting new coach Urban Meyer his guy to build around, and the draft really starts with the second pick.

One thing to know: A loss as an NFL starter will be Lawrence's first in a regular-season game since prior to high school. His only two losses at Clemson came in the College Football Playoff.

2. New York Jets
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Any doubt that the Jets were going this route has now been put to bed, as the Jets traded Sam Darnold to Carolina. The near certainty of the first pick is perhaps now matched by the near certainty of the second. Wilson has great arm strength and an ability to make things happen outside the pocket, even though his pre-2020 production, injury history and weaker strength of competition at BYU are all things to consider. In the end, Darnold just wasn't consistent enough for the Jets to pass up Wilson.

One thing to know: Wilson's 73.5% completion rate in 2020 ranks seventh in college football history.

3. San Francisco 49ers (via MIA/HOU)
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

I see Jones as very similar to Matt Ryan, whom Kyle Shanahan had a lot of success with in his Atlanta days. He is an accurate thrower and processes quickly, and I think he's a better mover than most give him credit. And I love his closing statement on the 2020 season, throwing 14 touchdowns over his last three games en route to a national title. North Dakota State's Trey Lance was also in the mix, but it's too risky for my blood to trade all those picks to move up this high to invest in a quarterback who played just one game since 2019 and zero in his career against FBS competition.

One thing to know: In 2020, Jones led the FBS with 4,500 passing yards and set the NCAA all-time mark for completion percentage (77.4%).

4. Atlanta Falcons
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

If I'm Atlanta, I'm building for the future and taking a quarterback who can learn behind the soon-to-be 36-year-old Matt Ryan before eventually taking over. There's no guarantee that the Falcons are picking this high again, so take advantage of the opportunity. I'd also spend some time thinking about Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, and if there were a defensive player worth this pick, I'd consider that after Deion Jones led the team in sacks last season with 4.5. But ultimately, it's Lance as a critical part of Atlanta's future.

One thing to know: Lance threw just one interception in his collegiate career, covering 317 passing attempts across 17 games.

5. Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Sewell is still available? I'm sprinting to the podium to lock in that pick. No discussion necessary, even with pass-catchers such as Ja'Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle on the board. Sewell is the top lineman in the class, and the Bengals' blocking unit was super inconsistent in 2020. Simply put, you have to protect quarterback Joe Burrow.

One thing to know: In 2019, Sewell was the first Polynesian player, first sophomore offensive lineman and first Oregon player to win the Outland Trophy.

6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI)
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Look, the Dolphins aren't -- and shouldn't be -- moving on from QB Tua Tagovailoa. He was a top-five pick last year, and they still need to surround him with talent. Let's do just that. Chase is a special player who would provide a spark on offense. I also thought about offensive line, as a stronger unit would allow Tagovailoa to climb the pocket and make better throws.

One thing to know: Chase was an unanimous first-team All-American in 2019, becoming just the 12th LSU player to receive that honor.

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7. Detroit Lions
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Detroit has made some puzzling moves this offseason, but what position to target here shouldn't be a stumper. The wide receiver unit went from Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. to Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman in March. Waddle is explosive and tough, and I actually prefer him to Bama teammate DeVonta Smith. He is a game-changing home-run hitter, and I'd rather have that than an elite route runner such as Smith. Plus, I have concerns about whether Smith's frame can stand up to the rigors of an NFL season.

One thing to know: Waddle owns three of the five longest scoring receptions in Alabama team history.

8. Carolina Panthers
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The Panthers dealt three picks to the Jets for Sam Darnold on Monday, but I still think QB is the play in Round 1. Seriously. Darnold is owed roughly $24 million over the next two years, and Fields would be on a rookie contract. The worst case here: Carolina has two good, young, cost-effective QBs and can make a decision to move one of them down the road. (And the Panthers could still get something for Teddy Bridgewater.) For what it's worth, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer agrees.

If you remove the tape from a few of his games this season (Indiana, Northwestern and Alabama), Fields would be in the No. 2 overall pick discussion. His accuracy is excellent most of the time, though there are some lapses. If not QB, cornerback is an option for Carolina, and Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) would fit.

One thing to know: Fields is the only player in Big Ten history with at least 40 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns in the same season (2019).

9. Denver Broncos
Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State

Denver could do a lot of things here. The signings of Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller push cornerback down the list, but taking Kyle Pitts to pair with Noah Fant at tight end or upgrading the offensive line could be in play. Parsons, though, can play inside or outside and impact a lot of different areas. I picture him helping to cover some of those high-end AFC West tight ends. For coach Vic Fangio, it'd be a flashback to his Chicago defenses when he had versatile game-breaking linebackers.

One thing to know: Parsons' final college game -- 2019 Cotton Bowl -- was his best, as he tied his career high in tackles (14) and posted career highs in tackles for loss (three), sacks (two), forced fumbles (two) and pass breakups (two).

10. Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Last year, Dallas needed defense but took advantage of receiver CeeDee Lamb sliding to No. 17. Now, would it really let Kyle Pitts go if it came to this, despite a glaring need on the other side of the ball again? Man, I'm tempted, and I know Jerry Jones would be too. But the Cowboys can get back to winning ways if they tighten up on defense, and that starts with a shutdown corner like Surtain.

One thing to know: Patrick Surtain Sr. -- his father and also a cornerback -- was a second-round pick in the 1998 NFL draft and went on to make three Pro Bowls.

11. New York Giants
Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia

The Giants attacked cornerback and wide receiver in free agency, so pass-rusher is their No. 1 need. And coach Joe Judge seeks versatile guys off the edge, which is why I'm going with Ojulari here. He's tough and can get home on the QB, but he's also an outside linebacker who can drop into coverage. Kwity Paye (Michigan), for example, doesn't do that.

One thing to know: Ojulari was defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl -- his final game with Georgia -- with three sacks.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA/SF)
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Eagles fans would be doing backflips in celebration if Pitts fell to No. 12. Pitts and Dallas Goedert are a dream pairing at tight end, but offensive coordinator Shane Steichen would be able to move Pitts around the offense too. And as for quarterback, if Jalen Hurts doesn't work out, the Eagles have at least two and likely three first-rounders in 2022. (The potential third is based on how much Carson Wentz plays for the Colts this season.)

One thing to know: Pitts lined up outside of the inline TE position on more than one-third of his snaps in 2020.


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13. Los Angeles Chargers
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

The Chargers signed Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi on the interior of the offensive line, but they still need to solidify the unit and better protect Justin Herbert. I went to Darrisaw here simply because he's a better pass protector than Northwestern's Rashawn Slater and a better fit at left tackle, where there remains a hole opposite Bryan Bulaga.

One thing to know: Virginia Tech rushed outside the left tackle 12.4 times per game, the most in the FBS in 2020, while also averaging 7.4 yards per rush.

14. Minnesota Vikings
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

I think linemen Rashawn Slater or Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC) could be matches here, but I'd opt for an impact pass-rusher. Paye is a similar player to Everson Griffen, who thrived with the Vikings.

One thing to know: Paye had a 21% pressure percentage in 2020, second best in the FBS.

15. New England Patriots
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Finally, it's time for Smith. Sometimes it becomes essentially a coin flip for one guy versus another, and one obviously has to lose out. Smith just kept losing the coin flip for me, but he has a ton of value here. Julian Edelman is turning 35, and there's still room for playmakers in the wide receivers room after the Patriots signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. If Smith is gone, cornerback could be in play too.

One thing to know: Smith's 1,856 receiving yards in 2020 are a single-season SEC record and the most by a Power 5 player since Michael Crabtree in 2007 (1,962).

16. Arizona Cardinals
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

This one is pretty simple. The Cardinals need a cornerback badly, especially now that Patrick Peterson is off to Minnesota. And Horn is a tough press corner who would step right into a big role. Also keep an eye on linemen on the board, as guys such as Rashawn Slater and Alijah Vera-Tucker would help that Arizona interior.

One thing to know: Horn allowed a completion percentage of 31% as the targeted defender in coverage in 2020, second best in the SEC and tied for eighth among Power 5 defenders.

17. Las Vegas Raiders
Rashawn Slater, OT/G, Northwestern

The Raiders moved on from a majority of their starting offensive linemen over the past few weeks, and Slater is versatile enough to slide into any role Las Vegas would need him to fill. That should be the target here, but I did consider adding a guy like Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) to the cornerback group.

One thing to know: Slater could be the first offensive player from Northwestern taken in the first round since fellow tackle Chris Hinton went fourth overall in 1983.

18. Miami Dolphins
Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC

Maybe Zaven Collins (Tulsa) to replace Kyle Van Noy? Maybe Najee Harris (Alabama) to give the Dolphins an elite run game? Both are options, but I just don't see Ereck Flowers as a long-term solution on the interior of the line, and Tua Tagovailoa needs better protection to find some Year 2 success. And remember, Miami took a first-round lineman out of USC just one year ago, in this very same No. 18 slot (Austin Jackson).

One thing to know: Vera-Tucker allowed only one pass pressure in 561 pass blocks at guard in 2019, and he allowed a 1% pressure rate as a left tackle in 2020.

19. Washington Football Team
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

Yes, Washington needs a left tackle, and yes, Mayfield played on the right side at Michigan. But he could certainly transition, or perhaps Morgan Moses slides over to the left side where he has 400-plus career snaps. Either way, Mayfield is a stout run-blocker who would help shore up the unit.

One thing to know: Michigan averaged 9.2 rushes per game outside the right tackle in 2019 -- behind Mayfield -- as opposed to 6.6 outside the left tackle.


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20. Chicago Bears
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Man, I'd like to address wide receiver -- Allen Robinson II is on the franchise tag and could be out of town after 2021 -- or offensive tackle, but cornerback is the better move in this spot. For one, Farley carries great value at No. 20, even though there is some risk with him coming off back surgery. And even after bringing in Desmond Trufant, the CB group could use reinforcements.

One thing to know: The first top draft prospect to opt out of the 2020 season, Farley was originally slated to play wide receiver before missing his freshman season with a knee injury and converting to corner.

21. Indianapolis Colts
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

In my mind, Cosmi is a top-five tackle in this class, and with Anthony Castonzo retiring, the Colts would love to have someone like him -- big and physical -- come in and replace Castonzo at left tackle. But keep an eye on a guy like Zaven Collins, who would fit well in the 3-4 defensive scheme off the edge.

One thing to know: Cosmi was flagged 11 times from 2018 to '19, which tied for the fourth most among Big 12 linemen. But in eight games during the 2020 season, he was flagged just once.

22. Tennessee Titans
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Out go Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson, in come Janoris Jenkins and Stokes. The Titans will love Stokes' elite speed, versatility and ball skills. Kentucky's Kelvin Joseph was an option for me, too, and an edge rusher or tackle would have been justifiable. But ultimately, I want a shutdown corner in Tennessee's contention window.

One thing to know: Stokes allowed the second-lowest completion percentage (18.2%) and Total QBR (1.3) in press coverage in the FBS last season (min. 75 press coverage snaps).

23. New York Jets (via SEA)
Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa

This pick came down to three players for me: Collins, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) and Travis Etienne (Clemson). If the Jets went running back, Etienne fits that new offensive scheme the best, but it's just too early for me to do that -- especially for a team that won two games last year and has a lot of needs. And while I like Owusu-Koramoah's game, Collins' size, length and better pass-rushing traits -- Owusu-Koramoah is more of an off-the-ball linebacker type -- ultimately tipped it in his favor. New York doesn't have a versatile front-seven player like Collins who can generate pressure.

One thing to know: Collins was the only FBS player with at least four sacks and four interceptions last season. And he was one of six FBS players with multiple defensive TDs.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Creed Humphrey, C/G, Oklahoma

It's still too early for a running back, and there isn't a first-round quarterback left on the board. So my initial leaning becomes even stronger: Get Pittsburgh a lineman. Finding a center you can form an offensive line around is Team Building 101. A former high school wrestler, Humphrey is tough, physical and smart.

One thing to know: According to Pro Football Focus, Humphrey did not allow a single sack on 401 pass plays in 2020 or 799 plays in 2019.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR)
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

Jacksonville has tightened up cornerback with a first-rounder last year (CJ Henderson) and a big signing in free agency this year (Shaquill Griffin), but safety is still a concern. Moehrig is the best in the class. But I also thought about Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in a Jeremy Chinn-esque strong safety role, which should be something to discuss. And after spending in free agency on the defensive line (Haason Reddick), someone like Gregory Rousseau (Miami) would make sense off the edge. He would be able to sit and develop for a while, but I'm just not sure what his role is in the NFL. Is he an inside or outside player?

One thing to know: Moehrig had seven interceptions and 28 passes defended in his three-year career at TCU.


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26. Cleveland Browns
Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

Someone needs to take the pass-rush load off Myles Garrett, and Phillips could be that guy. He's the best available player, and he posted tremendous numbers (15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks) in his final college season after retiring at UCLA and then returning and transferring. And did you see his pro day workout? He had a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 broad jump -- at 260 pounds. Impressive.

One thing to know: During the 2020 season, Phillips was usually lined up outside the tight end, with 56% of his pass-rushes coming from there. He was also used both as a defensive end and an outside linebacker, primarily on the left side.

27. Baltimore Ravens
Deonte Brown, G, Alabama

Yeah, I know the Ravens have to add a wide receiver, but I do like the Sammy Watkins signing, and there will be plenty of receivers still on the board in Round 2. Someone explosive like Kadarius Toney (Florida) might be tempting, but he's too similar to a) the Ravens' 2019 top pick Marquise Brown and b) many of the slot/elusive receivers who would be available on Day 2. Instead, I went interior offensive line, even after the Kevin Zeitler deal. Brown is a powerful blocker who would provide a firm pocket for Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. His Alabama teammate Landon Dickerson was under consideration, but his ACL tear makes him just too risky on Day 1 for me.

One thing to know: Over 857 pass-blocking plays from 2018 to '20, Brown had only one sack attributed to him.

28. New Orleans Saints
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, ILB, Notre Dame

I see Owusu-Koramoah as a hybrid defender in the NFL, and he's not the type of player you'll often see on the open market. The Saints could use him in a lot of different ways, including at weakside linebacker or in the "overhang" position. Among the other players I thought about for a variety of areas: Wake Forest edge rusher Carlos Basham Jr., Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai and a handful of receivers.

One thing to know: According to Pro Football Focus, Owusu-Koramoah took 195 snaps along the defensive line, 433 in the box and 680 in the slot over the past two seasons.

29. Green Bay Packers
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

OK, I hear your "Aaron Rodgers needs a wide receiver" calls, but let's remember that the offensive line responsible for protecting Rodgers just lost Corey Linsley and Rick Wagner. Jenkins has played on both sides of the line and just fits so well in Matt LaFleur's outside zone scheme.

One thing to know: Jenkins could become the first Oklahoma State offensive lineman to be drafted since Russell Okung went sixth overall in 2010 (Seahawks).

30. Buffalo Bills
Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas

Bringing in Matt Breida -- when the Bills already have Devin Singletary and Zack Moss -- doesn't necessarily keep them from drafting a running back, but it certainly should in the first round. So the pivot is from speed on offense to speed on defense. Penn State's Jayson Oweh fits the mold, but Ossai could be a big-time impact player for Buffalo. He is disruptive off the edge and flies around the field in run defense. Jerry Hughes is turning 33 before the 2021 season, so the pass-rush would benefit from depth.

One thing to know: Ossai -- who led Texas in tackles for loss (20), sacks (5) and forced fumbles (3) in 2020 -- first saw a football game when he was 10 years old after arriving to the United States from Nigeria.

31. Kansas City Chiefs
Trey Smith, OT/G, Tennessee

Yes, I watched the Super Bowl too. Patrick Mahomes was under pressure all night, and while Joe Thuney and Kyle Long will be great additions, they play inside. And after releasing Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, tackle is important for the Chiefs. I know Smith has mainly played guard, but he can also suit up at tackle. He overwhelms defenders. But I haven't forgotten about Smith's injury history, and that makes this pick a little tougher.

One thing to know: Smith reduced his blown blocks on designed runs from 12 in 2019 (3.3% of run snaps) to two in 2020 (0.7% of run snaps).

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

A first-round running back is usually what I call a "luxury pick," in that teams going that route normally don't have many weaknesses and have the luxury of adding a player like that. The Chiefs did it last year at No. 32 with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and I have the Bucs doing it at No. 32 this year with Etienne. Why Etienne over Najee Harris? The Clemson RB is more explosive and can score from anywhere, which is what Tampa Bay lacks for the most part in Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette (both playing on expiring contracts). And Etienne's pass-catching skill would help Tom Brady out. Another player I nearly took here: Christian Barmore, as a Barmore-Vita Vea pairing on the defensive line could be tough to beat.

One thing to know: Etienne is seeking to become the first ACC running back drafted in the first round since David Wilson (Giants) in 2012.

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