Julio Jones trade grades: Titans and Falcons earn high marks for splashy move

The Tennessee Titans put the AFC on notice by trading for Julio Jones on Sunday, keeping their premium draft capital but taking on all of Jones’ onerous contract. He is guaranteed $15.3 million next year and is slated to earn $11.5 million in each of the next two years.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Titans receive:
  • Julio Jones
  • 2023 sixth-round draft pick
Falcons receive:
  • 2022 second-round draft pick
  • 2023 fourth-round draft pick
Titans grade: B+

Regardless of what team you root for, this is a great trade for football fans. Tennessee paired the most prolific wide receiver of the past decade with the best running back in football (Derrick Henry) and rising star A.J. Brown. With the efficient Ryan Tannehill running the show, the Titans will have the NFL’s most effortless offense next year.

Tennessee earns a high grade for keeping their first-round pick despite rumors that the Falcons had been offered one. They expect to make a deep playoff run next year, so the second-rounder they gave up will likely have little value.

But let’s make one thing clear: the trade has little, if any, impact on the Titans’ Super Bowl odds. Their offense was never the problem; they tied for second in the league last year in total offense but were 28th in defense. More pass attempts will simply mean fewer carries for Henry — not necessarily a more potent offense. For two years, Tennessee has been an edge rusher away from joining the upper echelon of NFL teams. Another offseason is about to pass without them changing that fact.

It’s impossible to know what the 32-year old Jones will bring to the table, especially because we only have nine injury-free games from last year to evaluate him with. We have already seen that quarterbacks’ ability can disappear without warning, but there is little precedent for someone who has been as good as Jones for so long.

However, recent greats like Antonio Brown and Randy Moss saw their play drop off sharply in their early 30s. Jones showed flashes of his former self last year in three games with over 130 yards but also struggled to create separation and often ended up with less than five targets.

Regardless of how he performs, Jones will make an absurd amount of money. Only DeAndre Hopkins has a higher annual value. The Titans earn a B+ simply for adding a future Hall of Famer, but his salary keeps them from a top grade.

Falcons grade: B+

Atlanta terribly mismanaged this trade. Even before Jones accidentally announced his desire to leave the team on live television, the Falcons made it painfully clear how desperate they were to dump his salary.

But even if things had gone perfectly, the Falcons were never going to get a first-round pick for Jones. The Texans couldn’t even get a first-rounder when they dealt Hopkins last year in the prime of his career.

All that mattered was finding someone to take on all of Jones’ salary so that Atlanta can focus on rebuilding their roster. There was no way to justify paying any receiver, let alone one in their thirties, $22 million when the Falcons are so far away from contention.

With two extra draft picks, they can afford to take a flyer at quarterback next year or put together a package to trade up in the first round. In the meanwhile, Ridley and Kyle Pitts can easily anchor their passing game.

Julio Jones was even more synonymous with the Falcons than Matt Ryan. By trading him, Atlanta signaled that they are ready to commit to a rebuild and finally escape their 2017 Super Bowl hangover.

Top 100 NFL Players of 2021: 90-81

Throughout the offseason, Baseline Times will be ranking the top 100 NFL players for the 2021 season.

Every Thursday night, 10 players will be released with a short discussion about what separates them from the rest of the pack. Rankings are based on both past performance and projections for next year.

This week’s list is filled with veterans who took a big step forward last year, as well as some unsung young heroes.

Previous Entries: 100-91

90. Derwin James, S, Chargers

So far, James has lived up to his pre-draft evaluation: if he can stay healthy, he is a game-changing safety. He fell to the Chargers at No. 17 in the 2018 draft because of a leg injury and was a first-team All-Pro that season. However, his leg sidelined him for all of 2020 and most of 2019. He is reportedly fully healthy, and a successful start to the season could quickly change the narrative surrounding him.

89. J.J. Watt, DE, Cardinals

No one has dropped down this list as quickly and as suddenly as Watt. Once the consensus best player of his generation, it feels like much longer than three years since he recorded 16 sacks and was named a first-team All-Pro. Last year, he had five sacks and 17 quarterback hits, both career-lows for a full season.

Now, Watt will suit up for a team besides Houston for the first time. Expectations are low, and Watt has punched his ticket to Canton regardless of how he performs. But he will need to regain at least some of his old form if he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players of all time.

88. Stephon Tuitt, DT, Steelers

Tuitt bounced back from a 2019 injury and finally made the jump from “good” to “elite” in his seventh NFL season. One of ten players to post double-digit sacks, Tuitt made offensive lines pay for focusing too much attention on T.J. Watt.

87. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders

Making fun of the Raiders’ draft picks has become something of a national pastime, but Jacobs is no joke. He racked up 12 touchdowns and 1,303 yards from scrimmage in his sophomore campaign and made his first Pro Bowl. He lacks the explosiveness to compensate for a bad offensive line — his longest rush last year was 28 yards — but has emerged as a true every-down back in a time where that role is supposed to be dying out.

86. Leonard Williams, DT, Giants

Leonard Williams played the best football of his six-year career in 2020. (Adam Hunger/Associated Press)

Williams’ shaggy mane of hair and massive 6-foot-5 frame have become one of opposing linemen’s least favorite sights. He has been a true workhorse since entering the league in 2015, missing only one game in six years. But last year, he finally lived up to his status as the No. 6 overall pick.

He posted career-highs in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (14) while leading a rejuvenated Giants defensive line. His 62 quarterback pressures were more than double anyone else on the team. New York rewarded him in March with a $63 million dollar contract.

85. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys

Lawrence has not justified the five-year, $105 million contract he signed in 2019. However, he has been much better than his 11.5 sacks in the past two years suggest. Lawrence is disruptive and physical, two traits that were lacking in Dallas’ 28th-ranked defense last year. He could experience a resurgence if bruiser Micah Parsons draws enough attention from opposing offenses.

84. Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

While he has never matched the heights of his 2015 breakout season, Robinson’s quiet consistency has anchored the Bears’ offense with 200 receptions in the past two years. His 1,250 yards last year ranked ninth in the league, ahead of Pro Bowlers Keenan Allen and A.J. Brown.

Few players are better than Robinson at making contested catches, whose size and sure hands give him an edge over most cornerbacks. If Justin Fields meets expectations, Robinson could be in for a career year in 2021.

83. James Bradberry, CB, Giants

Bradberry hasn’t become a star quite yet, but New Yorkers know how intimidating he can be in pure man coverage. Bradberry is not an aggressive corner, but possesses elite instincts and keep up with the league’s best route runners. Don’t let that style fool you — he was instrumental in the Giants’ upset of the Seahawks last year, holding the 6-foot-4 D.K. Metcalf to five receptions.

The five-year veteran went to his first Pro Bowl last year. He also posted a 79.8 grade on Pro Football Focus — seventh-best among cornerbacks and better than stars like Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White.

82. Joel Bitonio, G, Browns

Joel Bitonio is one of the most reliable players in the NFL. He has not missed a snap since 2016. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Browns’ offensive line was the biggest factor in their success last year. They have three lineman on this list, more than some entire teams. Their blockers are that good.

Bitonio is a head coach’s dream. He has not missed a snap at left guard in the past four years and has been a second-team All-Pro for three years straight. Guards rarely get credit for their team’s success, but Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield may not have become stars without Bitonio’s steady prescence.

81. Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals

Burrow’s Week 10 ACL injury remains the most enduring and tragic image of the 2020 NFL season. Before his season was cut short, Burrow put up over 300 passing yards five times and was immune to most of the growing pains young quarterbacks experience. He is unquestionably the Bengals’ quarterback of the future.

However, Cincinnati questionably passed on left tackle Penei Sewell in the draft. Their offensive line is virtually unchanged from the group that at one point allowed Burrow to be sacked 16 times over three weeks. If he can not stay on his feet, it won’t matter how talented he is.

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Is Adam Vinatieri the Greatest Kicker of All Time?

Legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri retired from football after 24 seasons this Wednesday, wrapping up the third-longest career in NFL history. The 48-year-old played 10 seasons with the Patriots and 14 with the Colts and is the NFL’s all-time leading scorer.

Vinatieri is the most beloved special teams player of his generation, but is he the greatest kicker in league history?

Morten Andersen and Jan Stenerud are the only two athletes in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played exclusively kicker. Assuming that Vinatieri joins them in five years — which he most certainly will — there will not be many kickers that can claim to be better than the New England icon.


Adam’s really, in my mind, the best of all time.

Bill Belichick

The Patriots’ success over the past two decades is usually credited only to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but there would be no dynasty without Vinatieri. He is the only player to kick two Super-Bowl-winning field goals: a 48-yarder in 2002 and a 41-yarder in 2004.

The Patriots would not have even made it to the 2002 Super Bowl without Vinatieri. He kicked a 45-yard field goal to end that year’s AFC Divisional Round to overtime and booted in another to seal the win — with five inches of snow on the ground. At the time, Belichick called it “by far the greatest kick I have ever seen.”

Belichick doubled down on his praise this Thursday, noting how Vinatieri’s calmness in high-pressure situations helped set a tone for the entire Patriots dynasty.

“Adam’s really, in my mind, the best of all time,” Belichick said. “His consistency, his ability to handle clutch situations and make the biggest kicks and just the longevity of his career, I mean it was a quarter of a century and the consistency is just remarkable.”


Adam Vinatieri retires with an impressive stat line that reflects his consistency and skill in addition to his longevity.

Points: 2,673 (1st all-time)

Field Goals Made: 599 (1st)

Extra Points Made: 874 (2nd)

Field Goal Percentage: 83.78% (25th)

The main argument against Vinatieri’s status as the best ever is his field goal percentage. While he was never as accurate as modern-day greats like Justin Tucker (90.65%) and Robbie Gould (86.58%), those players have yet to prove they can maintain their skill level as they age. Vinatieri’s 96.8 field goal percentage in 2014 led the league and was the best ever by a player over 40.

More importantly, Vinatieri unseated Andersen as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer while playing one fewer season. Though some active kickers (led by Stephen Gostkowski) are on pace to break the record again, they are playing in an era of high scoring and constant extra point attempts. It is unlikely that anyone will match Vinatieri’s sheer staying power and universal respect.

Image courtesy of Michael Conroy/Associated Press

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Top 100 NFL Players of 2021: 100-91

Throughout the offseason, Baseline Times will be ranking the top 100 NFL players for the 2021 season.

Every Thursday night, 10 players will be released with a short discussion about what separates them from the rest of the pack. Rankings are based on both past performance and projections for next year.

100. Brian Burns, DE, Carolina Panthers

First-round edge rushers typically take a few years to reach their potential, and Burns’ sophomore stat line suggests that he is in for a big 2021. With ten sacks and three forced fumbles in 14 starts, Burns quietly helped anchor a disappointing Carolina defense and will be a mainstay in a group that lacks an identity.

99. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens

Stanley had Pro Football Focus’s top pass-blocking grade when a Week 8 injury ended his season, and led all tackles in the stat in 2019. Lamar Jackson‘s mobility certainly helps in that area, but Stanley has proven more than capable of matching up with T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett twice a year. He has the tools to be truly elite, but will need to be on the field for more snaps before he enters that conversation.

98. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

After missing all of last year with an ankle injury, no one knows if Miller is still the perennial All-Pro that dictated opponents’ game plans. He was a shadow of his former self in 2019 when he posted career-lows in sacks (8) and quarterback hits (20). This year he might be upstaged by rising star Bradley Chubb. Still, the former Super Bowl MVP’s experience should help him finish within the top 100 NFL players.

97. Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints

Though a case of COVID-19 kept Armstead from starting all 16 games for the first time in his career, he has been a mainstay at left tackle in New Orleans for seven years. Last season, he reached his third-straight Pro Bowl, a level of consistency that will be invaluable as the Saints look for Drew Brees‘ successor.

96. Calais Campbell, DE, Baltimore Ravens

One of the most physically intimidating pass rushers of the last decade, the 300-pound Campbell is nearly 35 and looking to end his career with a Super Bowl ring. He was slightly disappointing last year with a career-low four sacks — three of which came in a monster performance against Philadelphia — but more than justified the fifth-round pick Baltimore traded away for him. There is no reason to believe Campbell won’t earn his fifth-straight Pro Bowl nod this year.

95. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders

There are only two other tight ends on this list, both of whom will predictably rank much higher. But in a league obsessed with speedy wideouts, Waller made a name for himself in 2020 with nine touchdowns and nearly 1,196 yards. He essentially was the Raiders’ passing game, accounting for almost a quarter of the team’s total targets. That speaks more to the lack of talent in Las Vegas than to Waller’s ability, but he will still be all over highlight reels next year.

94. Richard Sherman, CB, Free Agent

Though a rumored reunion with the Seattle Seahawks is unlikely, Sherman will make an immediate impact wherever he ends up. His All-Pro days are behind him at age 33, but he remains perhaps one of the most intelligent corners in NFL history. Expect Sherman to emerge as a locker room leader on yet another Super Bowl contender before his Hall of Fame career is up.

93. John Johnson III, S, Cleveland Browns

Johnson had the league’s most unsung comeback story last year. After a horrific 2019 that ended in six games with a shoulder injury, Johnson played every defensive snap for the Browns in 2020. He allowed only 51 receptions, second-best among safeties. Despite lining up across from former No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward, Johnson has emerged as the leader of Cleveland’s secondary and one of the top 100 NFL players.

92. Frank Ragnow, C, Detroit Lions

Ragnow is already the league’s highest-paid center. Now he needs to prove he’s worth $70 million. A second-team All-Pro in 2020, Ragnow did not allow any sacks and committed only three penalties. He will play alongside rookie Penei Sewell next year in what could suddenly be a top-caliber offensive line.

91. Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On a defense loaded with famous faces, White was lost in the crowd after being drafted at No. 5 in 2019. But in the final minutes of Super Bowl LIV, he intercepted Patrick Mahomes in the end zone to cap a stunning postseason performance. White had 38 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in three playoff starts. If he can carry that momentum into 2021, All-Pro status will not be out of the question.

NFL 2021 – Schedule Release

The NFL 2021 schedule was released on May 12, 2021.

Here are the schedule release games for Week 1 and top prime-time games to pay mark your calendars for!

Week 1 Schedule

2021 top prime-time games

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 9 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 7 at 8:20 p.m. ET on FOX/NFL Network/Amazon

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 30 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 28 at 8:20 p.m. ET on FOX/NFL Network/Amazon

See your team’s schedule

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NFL Draft: The Next Wave of Quarterback Prospects

2021 makes the fourth NFL Draft in a row that a quarterback has been selected with the number one overall pick and since 2001, 16 of the 21 first picks have been quarterbacks.

The quarterback position will always been the key target in the NFL Draft as, typically, it’s the difference in being a great team and a bad team.

Key to remember though that the top overall pick isn’t the only quarterback selected. In 2021 alone, there were five quarterbacks selected in the first 15 picks.

Usually, it’s the later-drafted quarterbacks who have the most success. Since 2001, the only number one overall selected quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl are Peyton and Eli Manning. The quarterback with the most Super Bowl wins? Tom Brady; a sixth-round selection in the 2000 NFL Draft.

We may spend a ton of time talking about names like Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, and Baker Mayfield, but based on recent history, it’s likely only one of those four, if any, ever make an appearance in the Super Bowl.

Speaking of Super Bowl quarterbacks, we are witnessing a “changing of the guard” in the NFL at the position. With players such as Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers retiring in the last two seasons; Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan losing a battle with Father Time, and legends like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers still at the top of their game, but getting long in the tooth, the next wave of quarterbacks is upon us.

While the league is actually rather young at the quarterback position currently with the majority of teams set with their “Franchise” quarterback, or at least, a projected starter under the age of 30, we all now how quickly that can change.

Teams such as Atlanta, Carolina, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington all could be looking for quarterbacks in the next three draft classes according to future draft predictions by Walter Football’s website.

That doesn’t necessary mean that all these teams will draft a quarterback, or even need one as they could make trades, use free agency, or develop a quarterback that isn’t on anyone’s radar just yet.

Nonetheless, it’s a good sized list which makes it easy to look at the next crop of quarterbacks with the thought that many will be starters by 2024. Looking for the next Trevor Lawrence? As of now, there isn’t a “sure thing” guy like that on the watch list of now, but still some big names that’ll be available over the next two drafts.

Let’s start with the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.

We recently looked at the top 32 prospects on the Big Board and found a few quarterbacks that may go at the top of the draft and that list begins with North Carolina’s Sam Howell.

Howell is not a Trevor Lawrence-like prospect, but does remind a lot of scouts of Baker Mayfield. Standing at 6-1, 225-pounds, Howell has thrown for over 7,000 yards with 68 touchdowns at North Carolina under Mack Brown and as of now, seems like the top quarterback in the Class of 2022, but he has a bunch of guys right on his heels.

Speaking of Mayfield, another high quality Oklahoma prospect is projected as a first-round pick in Spencer Rattler. A redshirt freshman last season, Rattler had some ups and downs in his first season as a starter, but for my money, he’s the one must-see QB on the board for 2022.

Rattler is a playmaker and showed outstanding growth in the final few games of the 2020 season and plays in the same system that has created some outstanding NFL talent. Mayfield as well as Kyler Murray went from Oklahoma to the Heisman Trophy ceremony to the top pick in the NFL Draft; could Rattler be the next Sooner to do so?

Time will tell, but neither Rattler nor Howell is built like a prototypical quarterback which is where the name Kedon Slovis comes in.

Slovis, out of Southern Cal, is a classic quarterback that has thrown for nearly 50 touchdowns the last two seasons. Slovis will need to turnover the football much less, but if Slovis and USC get on the right track, there’s a good chance that teams looking for an accurate, polarizing quarterback prospect will select Slovis early.

The 2022 quarterback draft class isn’t nearly as top heavy as the 2021 class, but it is deeper as there is potential of eight quarterbacks to be drafted in the first two rounds.

Outside of Howell, Rattler, and Slovis; J.T. Daniels out of Georgia, Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati, Tyler Shough out of Texas Tech, Carson Strong out of Nevada, and Matt Corral out of Ole Miss have shown potential to become NFL quarterbacks and all will have a great chance to climb up the draft board in 2022.

Plus, there’s always a name that’s not brought up much that makes a wild rise up draft boards. From Joe Burrow to Zach Wilson, quarterbacks are just a handful of great plays and wins away from going from unknown to potential first-round pick.

Jayden Daniels of Arizona State is a dark horse Heisman candidate that could gain some NFL attention while Malik Willis of Liberty already has some scouts trying to get a jump on what he could become at the next level.

2022 is a loaded defensive draft class, so if none of these quarterbacks grade high enough for some teams, this would be the draft to select a potential defensive superstar instead of reaching on a quarterback.

With players like Derek Stingley Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux, Christian Harris, and Kyle Hamilton, it would make sense for a team that didn’t feel they were a QB-away from contending to reach with a top five pick with some future All-Pro defensive prospects available.

Feels like forever away, but hey, it’s the Draft after next and it doesn’t feature as large of a quarterback class, but features a class similar to 2021 with three big time players with high pro potential.

In 2023, the NFL Draft will be headline by a three quarterback battle for the top spot as Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei, Alabama’s Bryce Young, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud all already look like pro prospects entering 2021.

Wait, quarterbacks from Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State?? Has this ever happen before?

Entering 2021, there will be other prospects that emerge this season that will be added to the 2023 Draft watch list, but as of now, it’s hard to imagine anyone passing up that trio.

The 2023 NFL Draft could be the next to feature three straight quarterbacks taken with the first three picks as we seen in this year’s draft. So, if your team didn’t get their “guy” this season, don’t sweat it: plenty of talent is on the way in the next two NFL Drafts at the quarterback position!

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NFL Draft: Way Too Early 2022 Big Board

Ah, what an exciting weekend that made us all feel like normal for a few days. The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone and many teams feeling improved and set for a rebuild.

But, it doesn’t always work like that. And there’s always next year!

While Trevor Lawrence headlined this draft class, many other quarterbacks made this a QB class unlike any other. There’s not that kind of firepower in 2022, but there is a loaded field of a defense players including one that may go number one overall over a quarterback for the first time since 2017.

Let’s separate the two sides based on offense and defense and take a look at the top 32 players in the projected NFL Draft class of 2022.


  1. Sam Howell, QB – North Carolina
    A bit undersized, but without question the best quarterback mechianics in the projected field for next season. Playing at North Carolina, his numbers will look impressive in a pass-heavy offense in 2021. If the team with top pick in 2022 need a signal-caller, Howell will likely be the way to go.
  2. Evan Neal, OL – Alabama
    Based on size and build alone, Neal is a can’t miss prospect on the offensive line. If Neal stays healthy and can lead the charge for another Alabama top-tier offense, Neal will be a top five pick in 2022.
  3. Kedon Slovis, QB – Southern Cal
    In terms of a pocket passer similar to Mac Jones, Slovis is that guy in the 2022 class of quarterbacks. Turnovers are the difference in Slovis being a contender as the top overall pick and a mid-first round draft pick.
  4. Zion Nelson, OT – Miami (FL)
    I love Nelson’s ability to just manhandle defenders at times on the line and has shown the ability to dominate from the left tackle position. Depending on Nelson’s 2022 season and team needs, Nelson could also slide up into the top five.
  5. Chris Olave, WR – Ohio State
    Similar to 2021, there could be between five and eight wide receivers selected in the first round in the 2022 NFL Draft. As of now, I’d take Olave as the top receiver. Olave could’ve been a first or second round pick this year, but opted to return to school. Another big season should lock him as a top ten pick and the top WR selected, but there’s plenty of competition at the position including on his own team.
  6. Spencer Rattler, QB – Oklahoma
    Rattler may be the number one guy to watch in college football in 2022 in terms of the Heisman Trophy, but his Draft stock will also be talked about all year long. If he struggles, Rattler could be leapfroged by a number of QB prospects. If Rattler excels and has another 3,000 yard season and Oklahoma is a title contender, Rattler could shoot up to the number one pick. By far the top playmaking and most electrifying quarterback available regardless in 2022.
  7. Jalen Wydermyer, TE – Texas A&M
    Wydermyer is no Kyle Pitts, but is a top tier talent at the tight end position. In two seasons, he’s shown massive pass-catching TE potential with 78 catches, 953 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
  8. Desmond Ridder, QB – Cincinnati
    Great size, very experienced, and is the top dual-threat quarterback available in the 2022 Draft. Ridder won’t have the same attention on him as the other three quarterbacks ranked above, but once the season ends and scouts start breaking down tape and measurements, Ridder could easily surge up many draft boards.
  9. George Pickens, WR – Georgia
    We mentioned earlier this is a loaded WR draft class and honestly, Pickens would be number one if not for an injury in the spring. There’s a chance Pickens doesn’t play this season and that would definitely make it hard to rank him above some of the other top receiver prospects. Nonetheless, may have the highest ceiling out of all the wide receivers available in 2022.
  10. Charles Cross, OT – Mississippi State
    A redshirt sophomore who will be eligible to enter the 2022 Draft, Cross has fantastic size and will play a large roll in Mike Leach’s pass-heavy style of play which will attract a bunch of NFL teams to make him a first-round pick.
  11. Cade Mayes, OG – Tennessee
    A solid prospect right out of high school, Mayes transferred from Georgia to Tennessee before last season. Mayes will have a larger role at Tennessee this season with a more fast-paced offense.
  12. Justyn Ross, WR – Clemson
    Similar to Pickens, Ross would be ranked higher if he was 100% healthy. Not just any injury, but a spinal injury will likely deter may teams from selecting Ross in the top ten. However, if healthy enough to get back on the field this season, his speed and playmaking ability will make him a tough pass late in the first round.
  13. Garrett Wilson, WR – Ohio State
    The teammate of Chris Olave, Wilson was the top target for Ohio State early last season before production dropped a bit late. A more consistent season could lead to Wilson climbing up possibly above the three wide outs currently ranked above him.
  14. Tyler Linderbaum, C – Iowa
    Linderbaum may have been the top center in this year’s draft, but instead returned to Iowa for the 2022 season. Another season similar to last will lead to Linderbaum becoming a first-round pick.
  15. Tyler Shough, QB – Texas Tech
    Shough transfered from Oregon to Texas Tech and will likely produce some much better numbers in 2022. I love everything about Shough and feel he’s a dark-horse to shoot up draft boards as a top ten pick.
  16. Isaiah Spiller, RB – Texas A&M
    Of course, running backs going early in the NFL Draft are a thing of the past unless they’re just big time playmakers which Spiller is. While he may lack great size, speed, and just raw tools, he has a pure knack of making big plays.


  1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE – Oregon
    A superstar defensive player that feels like the most sure-thing in next year’s draft class. Tribodeaux has the quick feet, explosive ability, and amazing size (6-5, 250 lbs.) to be one of the top tacklers in the NFL almost immediately upon arrival. If a team that has a young quarterback ends up with the top pick in 2022, Tribodeaux could be the number one overall pick.
  2. Derek Stingley Jr., CB – LSU
    Honestly, Stingley may be the top prospect, but the fact that a corner going number one, or honestly top five in this day and age, is unlikely, makes him right below Tribodeaux as of now. That doesn’t mean I don’t love everything about Derek Stingley’s game. Stingley is crazy fast and creates an island as a top tier corner that opposing quarterbacks want no part of. While a team that’s struggling may not be keen on selected Stingley in the top five, a good team may be willing to trade up to add him to their mix.
  3. Christian Harris, LB – Alabama
    There’s a top tier end, corner, and now, a linebacker in the 2022 Draft Class that is a top ten talent. Christian Harris has the NFL frame most General Managers are looking for and the tackling ability and pass rushing skills to be the top linebacker selected in next year’s draft.
  4. Drake Jackson, DT – Southern Cal
    Jackson may be a defensive end or edge rusher in the NFL. Jackson has pure pass rushing ability and is a flashy defensive linemen that will attract a ton of attention as a key defensive selection in 2022. While if a team with QB needs will clearly take Howell at number one, to me, these top four defensive players are the top overall players in the NFL Class of 2022.
  5. Kyle Hamilton, S – Notre Dame
    This is one of the best safety groups I’ve seen in a long time. Hamilton is the cherry on top of the field of talent as he’s 6-4, 220 lbs. and can make plays with his tackling ability as well as his ability to find the football and make a play. Reminds me of the “Honey Badger” and could play that type of role in the NFL as well.
  6. Kaiir Elam, CB – Florida
    Fantastic mixture of speed, length, attitude, and playmaking ability to make him a great corner at the next level. Elam won’t be targeted much this season, so numbers may not be as impressive, but Elam should still be a top fifteen selection.
  7. Zach Harrison, DE – Ohio State
    While Harrison has underperformed a bit at Ohio State so far, he still has the build to be a solid NFL end. At 6-6 and nearly 270 lbs., Harrison has only 38 tackles and less than six total sacks. If the stats improve a bit in 2022, Harrison could shoot up to become a top ten selection.
  8. Bubba Bolden, S – Miami (FL)
    Some of the hype has died down on Bolden over the last couple seasons and switched onto Hamilton of Notre Dame, but Bolden woke some people back up in 2020 and will look to do the same in 2021. Bolden looks to be the top tackling defensive back in the 2022 class, but if he can rack up a view more interceptions and pass break-ups this upcoming season, Bolden could jump back up on par with Hamilton.
  9. DeMarvin Leal, DT – Texas A&M
    Texas A&M is loaded with pro prospects, but none are as intriguing as DeMarvin Leal. Leal looks like an ideal-sized pro defender, but will need to consistently make plays in the backfield to climb up the draft boards. Based on his size alone, Leal will be hard to pass up early in the NFL Draft.
  10. Aiden Hutchinson, DT – Michigan
    Hutchinson had his 2020 season come to a disappointing conclusion due to an injury, but will look to rebound in 2021. In terms of a pure pass-rusher, Hutchinson may be the best in the draft field if 100% healthy.
  11. George Karlaftis, DE – Purdue
    Karlaftis’ draft stock took a hit in 2020 after a tough season including being hit with COVID, but at 6-4, 275lbs., Karlaftis has the size and talent to make plays all over the field. If healthy, Karlaftis could rise back up draft boards, but he could also see his stock fall further into the late-first or early-second round.
  12. Brandon Cox, LB – Florida
    Brandon Cox has the intangibles to be a great pro once he gets to the NFL. With an elite combination of high IQ, great tackling ability, and size that makes him a dominating, must see inside presence, Cox will be a steal if selected anywhere outside the top ten.
  13. Jordan Battle, S – Alabama
    A bit different than the other two safeties above him, Battle is an ideal strong safety at the next level who makes big hits and creates opportunities for teammates. Battle will have more of a leadership role this year on the Crimson Tide defense and playing alongside pro prospects Christian Harris and Josh Jobe, Battle will look to improve his draft stock throughout the season.
  14. Ventrell Miller, LB – Florida
    Miller and Cox will be the best one-two punch at linebacker this season in college football, but will also be in a “friendly competition” to rise up to the number two linebacker in the Draft. While Cox may be the leader and better IQ player, Miller is well rounded and rarely misses a tackle. If Miller can improve in the pass game, including both pass break-ups and getting to the quarterback, he could pass Cox and move up in the NFL Draft.
  15. Sevyn Banks, CB – Ohio State
    Ohio State seems to always have a top tier corner and this year is no different as Sevyn Banks is set for a breakout season. At 6-1, 200-pounds, Banks has all the tools to be the number two corner available in the 2022 NFL Draft.
  16. Josh Jobe, CB – Alabama
    Jobe isn’t too far behind Banks in terms of his tools and ability and will play on a top tier defense in 2021. Jobe doesn’t have crazy speed, especially for a first-round corner, but does have great ability to make plays on the ball and is a very good tacklers for his size.

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NFL Draft 2021: When Will Each Quarterback Take Over Their New Team?

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has come gone and while there were a few surprises, the “big five” quarterbacks were all selected in the top half of the draft has expected.

So, now that the dust has settled, who’s in the best fit going forward and when will we find out?

Now, look…none of these guys are likely to come in and become a superstar overnight. Most likely won’t even start week one or even up until the middle of the season. But, that’s usually a good thing!

Each selection comes with its on risk and reward factor, but we’ll take an in-depth look at each quarterback selected and how I believe they’ll “mesh” with their new NFL franchises including when we’ll see each rookie.

#1 – Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

We’ve been able to break this pick down since January because it was the no-brainier of the NFL Draft. Lawrence has been labeled, “Can’t Miss,” “Franchise Savior,” and “The Greatest QB Prospect Ever.”

No pressure, right?

While Lawrence checks all the boxes including the ticket-selling, must-see TV box that the Khan’s will love as we close in on the season, the Jaguars must be smart when it comes to throwing the young QB prospect into the fire. That will be hard to do since the city, and most the NFL, can’t wait to see what Lawrence becomes as a pro, the best bet is to hold him out until at least Week 4 or 5 if possible if not later.

With Gardner Minshew and C.J. Beathard on the roster, starting them early while Lawrence gets a chance to watch the game up close and continue to rehab the spring shoulder surgery is the best option for his long-term success.

As for the fit, I love the idea of Lawrence in an Urban Meyer-offensive scheme. But, it may take a few years to build around the young quarterback. Right now, Jacksonville still has holes everywhere on offense and defense. With D.J. Clark at WR and the combo of James Robinson and another first-round selection in Travis Etienne, the Jaguars offense could create some highlights, but the offensive line is a work-in-progress and the defense is a complete rebuild of where it was just three seasons ago.

Overall, Lawrence should be able to come in toward the middle of season and learn in a low-pressure setting as the Jaguars aren’t expected to be playoff contender in 2021. But, after a full season, another free agency period, and another likely top ten draft pick, expectations will be much highers for Lawrence and Jacksonville in 2022-23.

#2 – Zach Wilson, New York Jets

If there’s one quarterback rookie that is most likely to start week one, I’d put money on Zach Wilson with the Jets. Wilson comes from a pro-style offense and is a high IQ player who won’t take long to adjust to the NFL style of play.

The Jets also don’t have a ton of options at quarterback unless they plan on signing a veteran to push and/or guide Wilson during his rookie year. While I think it’s best for players like Lawrence, Lance, Fields, and Mac Jones to sit early in the season, I’m really content with Wilson playing from day one for the Jets.

New head coach Robert Saleh will put a lot of focus on improving the Jets’ defense this season and I expect that to pay off by December as the Jets have a young nucleus of talent on the defensive side of the ball. New offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur will be the one who guides Wilson through his rookie year.

Lafleur dealt with an unusual quarterback carousel in San Francisco, but usually kept the 49ers in the NFL’s top half when it came to passing yards and passing efficiency throughout the last three seasons. Lafleur will be able to take Wilson under his wing and create an offense built around the young quarterback going forward.

#3 – Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

While I love this pick so much more than the idea of the 49ers drafting Mac Jones, I still feel as if the less of Lance we see in 2021, the better.

Lance was 17-0 as a starter, but has played and thrown the ball less than any top ten quarterback draft pick in NFL history. He’s the enigma of the 2021 NFL Draft class, but also the most intriguing and the biggest risk-reward pick in the last few seasons.

Lance is phenomenal decision-maker who can make every throw, has excellent mobility, and is built like an NFL All-Pro. Lance would’ve been a great with any team in the Draft that could sit him and allow him to develop for at least one season. The 49ers at pick No. 3 is not different.

Keeping Jimmy Garoppolo is the key for San Francisco as we must remember how sought after and big of a prospect Jimmy was just a few seasons ago. Moving on from Garoppolo right now would be a mistake even if the 49ers selected Trevor Lawrence. This is Garoppolo’s team for at least the next season. Kyle Shanahan loved what Garoppolo when he first acquired the quarterback, but of course, when it comes to the draft, its easy to want to play with the new shiny toy.

A full year to develop, work with Garoppolo and Shanahan is a must for the North Dakota State prospect. I believe Trey Lance would thrive and become a statistical star in the Kyle Shanahan zone-read offense, but I hope we don’t see it until at least week 12 or later including the possibility of no starts until 2022.

#11 – Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

I never thought I would say this, but the Chicago Bears won day one of the NFL Draft. It’s hard to remember that back in January, some were calling for Justin Fields to leapfrog Trevor Lawrence as the top player in the draft! Now, that was short-lived and preposterous, but it just shows how big of a prospect Fields is.

Some questions about his mechanics, anticipation, and adaptability to the NFL game led to a slide, but to land Fields anywhere outside the top five is a steal if I’ve ever seen one. But, to the Bears at No. 11?? That’s a home run for Matt Nagy.

The Bears have two veteran quarterbacks to mentor the young quarterback this season with Nick Foles and Andy Dalton; two quarterbacks with great experience, skills to play at a high level in 2021, and understanding that neither are the “face of the franchise” being on the wrong side of 30.

Both quarterbacks will play this season, but the bigger role for both is the development of Justin Fields as he may not play in 2021 which would be a-okay in my book. Depending on what happens with the Packers this offseason with their quarterback situation, the Bears could contend for the playoffs this season, but if things go wrong and they find themselves way out of the playoff picture by week 12, the Bears may go ahead and pull the trigger on Fields.

Fields’ playing time this season will all depend on the success of the Bears under Foles and/or Dalton as well as their ability to stay healthy which has been a problem for both men over the last few seasons.

#15 – Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Tom Brady 2.0?? Let’s pump the brakes a bit here Patriots’ fans.

There’s still a bunch of question marks about Mac Jones including his ability to get out of the pocket against NFL-speed defense, but in terms of an NFL passer? He may be number two in this draft behind Lawrence. Plus, it’s without a doubt he’ll improve rapidly learning from the combination of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels if there’s still room to learn after a few years under Nick Saban.

Mac may be the best-coached 20-something year old NFL player in the history of football, honestly.

Nonetheless, when the Patriots made the surprising decision to re-sign Cam Newton, it made it clear that New England intended to start Newton for the foreseeable future. But, how long is that?

Depends on two things: Newton’s health and Mac Jones’ development.

Cam Newton has taken a beating the last few seasons and it’s clear he’s not the same “SuperCam” he was in the Carolina days. As a day on starter though, Newton is still the best option though for the Patriots. It’s key to remember though that the Patriots have done a rare thing and spent a good amount of money this offseason in hopes of returning to a playoff and championship contending team.

Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to hurt feelings (right, Drew Bledsoe?), so while other rookies may only play this year if their team struggles, if the Patriots are even close to contending for the playoffs and Newton is banged up or turning the ball over at a high rate, don’t be surprised to see Mac Jones anytime between week six and week ten. Mac Jones is great at reading a defense, has veteran-like pocket presence and can make every pocket throw – all things that will make Jones a big time weapon in the Josh McDaniels offense.

I can see Mac Jones leading the Patriots into a late run that leads to a wild card spot in the playoffs. Probably not your Rookie of the Year, but Mac will likely be the first class of 2021 quarterback to start a playoff game this season.

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2021 NFL Draft – Grades and analysis of the first round

After months of rumors, smokescreens, and seventeenth editions of your neighbor’s mock draft, the NFL Draft is finally here. Draft day is always full of surprises, but this time there are even more questions than usual. Who will be the third quarterback off the board? How many receivers will go in the first round? Is Trevor Lawrence’s forehead even bigger than Peyton Manning’s?

Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Aaron Rodgers might be on the trade block.

This page will be updated throughout the night with grades and analysis for every selection and trade.

1. Trevor Lawrence – Jacksonville Jaguars – QB – Clemson

The future has finally arrived in Jacksonville.

The only thing crazier than the expectations being placed on Lawrence is the fact that he may actually meet them. He has everything you could ask for in a prospect and then some, but he’ll be considered a bust if he’s anything less than the best player in franchise history. The Jaguars likely received some tempting trade offers throughout the offseason, so kudos to them for staying the course.

Grade: A+

Big Board Ranking: 1

2. Zach Wilson – New York Jets – QB – BYU

I get it. Wilson is athletic, he’s flashy, and he has the mobility to keep up with the modern game. But his draft value is based on what he could be, not what he is. After decades of failures, the Jets need a sure thing, and Wilson is not that; Justin Fields was the safe pick. There’s a very good chance Wilson becomes a star, but it’s equally likely that he’ll be just another name in the long list of Jets draft busts.

Grade: A-

Big Board Ranking: 6

3. Trey Lance – San Francisco 49ers – QB – North Dakota State

This was the most debated pick of the draft, and the Niners got it right. Lance doesn’t have the experience of Justin Fields. He doesn’t have the football IQ of Mac Jones. But the Niners already have Jimmy Garoppolo, a quarterback capable of taking them back to the Super Bowl. If Lance lives up to the potential his ridiculous athleticism gives him, great. Worst case scenario: San Francisco runs it back with Garoppolo

Grade: A

Big Board Ranking: 16

4. Kyle Pitts – Atlanta Falcons – TE – Florida

There wasn’t any way to screw this one up. Lost among the fuss over Trevor Lawrence is the fact that Pitts is one of the best offensive prospects we’ve seen in years. He’s a historic tight end prospect coming into a league with a historic lack of talent at tight end. Pitts will be able to contribute immediately alongside Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, giving Atlanta a receiving corps reminiscent of Matt Ryan’s 2016 MVP season.

Grade: A

Big Board Ranking: 2

5. Ja’Marr Chase – Cincinnati Bengals – WR – LSU

Let’s put it all together. Cincinnati used the No. 1 pick last year on Joe Burrow, who tore his ACL while playing behind a subpar offensive lineman. So with the opportunity to draft a plug-and-play left tackle, the Bengals took … a wide receiver? Chase is the best wideout in this class, but it won’t matter if Burrow can’t stay on his feet.

Grade: B-

Big Board Ranking: 4

6. Jaylen Waddle – Miami Dolphins – WR – Alabama

This pick is a disappointment after coming so close to drafting Chase, but that isn’t the Dolphins’ fault. Waddle is a better prospect than Devonta Smith and gives Tua Tagovailoa a true playmaker to grow with. Even though the Dolphins have improved over the past few years, they haven’t been exciting to watch. That just changed.

Grade: B+

Big Board Ranking: 7

7. Penei Sewell – Detroit Lions – OT – Oregon

This draft could not have played out better for Detroit. The Lions were expected to trade down, but there’s no reason to when you can draft someone this talented at No. 7. Sewell is a plug-and-play tackle with the potential to play 15 years at a high level, the most important piece of a rebuild besides a quarterback. In another draft, he could have been the No. 1 pick.

Grade: A+

Big Board Ranking: 3

8. Jacyee Horn – Carolina Panthers – CB – South Carolina

I don’t have nearly as much faith in Sam Darnold as the Panthers apparently do. Justin Fields should have been the pick here. But putting that aside, Horn wasn’t even the best cornerback on the board; that’s Patrick Surtain II. Still, the Carolina defense has been a nonfactor for some time now, and Horn has the intensity and drive to finally give them an identity.

Grade: C

Big Board Ranking: 13

9. Patrick Surtain II – Denver Broncos – CB – Alabama

It doesn’t get much easier: Surtain II is arguably the best defensive player in the draft and fills Denver’s biggest need. They could have justified taking a chance on a quarterback, but frankly, the Broncos aren’t making the playoffs any time soon. They’ll have plenty of high draft picks in the coming years if they decide that Drew Lock isn’t the guy.

Grade: A

Big Board Ranking: 9

10. DeVonta Smith – Philadelphia Eagles – WR – Alabama

You’ve already heard that Smith may not have the size to be successful in the NFL. I don’t think that’s true, but it is still a factor. Philadelphia already has a small quarterback and running back, and holes all across their defense. It made more sense to stay put at No. 12, draft Micah Parsons, and find a taller receiver in the second round. Of course, none of that is to say that Smith isn’t an instant gamechanger for Philly’s offense. And screwing over the Giants had to feel good.

Grade: B

Big Board Ranking: 10

11. Justin Fields – Chicago Bears – QB – Ohio State

For the first time in decades, the Chicago Bears have won the draft. Fields has the athleticism and experience that Mitch Trubisky and Jay Cutler were missing from the start, and is the least risky quarterback available besides Lawrence. The Bears had to give up next year’s first-rounder to swap places with the Giants, but that will be forgotten quickly if they’re right about Fields.

Grade: A+

Big Board Ranking: 5

12. Micah Parsons – Dallas Cowboys – LB – Penn State

Grade: A-

Big Board Ranking: 8

Another outstanding pick. The Cowboys had their eye on a cornerback, but still managed to trade down and grab a top-ten prospect. Parsons has the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler and will make an immediate difference on a Dallas defense that was hard to watch last year. He only fell this far because of some personality concerns, but, well … he’ll fit right in.

13. Rashawn Slater – Los Angeles Chargers – OT – Northwestern

Grade: A

Big Board Ranking: 12

I guarantee they’re popping bottles of champagne in the Chargers’ draft room. Slater was not expected to fall to No. 13, and like Sewell, has the skills to be a starter for the next decade. Last year, Justin Herbert won Rookie of the Year and the Chargers still posted a losing record. That’s not going to happen again.

14. Alijah Vera-Tucker – New York Jets – G – USC

Grade: C

Big Board Ranking: 29

The Jets have more holes in their roster than the Browns did a few years ago, but the offensive line is not one of them. There’s obviously room for improvement, but Mekhi Becton ensures that the group will be at least competent. If Vera-Tucker was a low-risk pick I’d understand it, but he lacks the strength to be a star. They could have gone with an edge rusher. Heck, they could have taken Mac Jones considering how often they screw up at quarterback.

15. Mac Jones – New England Patriots – QB – Alabama

Grade: A

Big Board Ranking: 14

It’s rare to see a quarterback drafted below his value, but as always, the Patriots played the board perfectly,  Chicago needed to give up their future to land a quarterback, but the Patriots stayed put and got their guy. I’m not sure that he has the athleticism to succeed, but it would be arrogant of me to say I know better than Bill Belichick. I’m giving them an A just for their patience.

16. Zaven Collins – Arizona Cardinals – LB – Tulsa

Grade: B-

Big Board Ranking: 19

Kwity Paye seemed like the obvious choice here. He’s a better prospect than Collins, and the Cardinals used their first-round pick on Isaiah Simmons, a linebacker, last year. Still, Collins is an intelligent player with a work ethic that could help quell rumors of a culture problem in Arizona.

17. Alex Leatherwood – Las Vegas Raiders – OT – Alabama

Grade: D+

Big Board Ranking: 28

Ah, my two favorite draft traditions: booing Roger Goodell and watching the Raiders draft players 20 picks too early. I’m actually higher on Leatherwood than most — he’s a natural lineman with an NFL-ready skill set — but he probably would have been there in the second round. At this rate, the Raiders will be stuck in mediocrity forever.

18. Jaelan Phillips – Miami Dolphins – EDGE – Miami (FL)

Grade: B

Big Board Ranking: 22

Edge rusher was the right call here, but I don’t understand how Kwity Paye is still on the board. There may be something the GMs know that we don’t. Phillips comes with some question marks surrounding his fundamentals, but the Dolphins have been incredible in the draft over the past few years. They can afford to take a risk if they like Phillips’ upside.

19. Jamin Davis – Washington Football Team – LB – Kentucky

Grade: C-

Big Board Ranking: 39

I’m of the mind that prospects should be judged based on their college careers, not their performance at the Combine. Davis is not a first-round pick. He has potential, but there were better linebackers and much better cornerbacks that would have provided much better value.

20. Kadarius Toney – New York Giants – WR – Florida

Grade: F

Big Board Ranking: 34

This is the last straw: it’s time to fire general manager Dave Gettleman. Not only was Toney the third-best receiver on the board, he plays one of only three positions that the Giants don’t have a need at. Even if there’s something wrong with Kwity Paye, there were edge rushers available with much more talent than Toney.

21. Kwity Paye – Indianapolis Colts – EDGE – Michigan

Grade: A

Big Board Ranking: 17

The Colts badly need a wide receiver, but they never expected Paye to fall to them. The best edge rusher in the class isn’t supposed to be drafted at No. 21. If he lives up to his potential, this could be the steal of the draft. It’s a deep receiving class; they’ll find someone in the second round

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Dolphins get their playmaker, Carolina takes Justin Fields

With the NFL Draft just over a week away, wide receivers and quarterbacks appear set to dominate the Day One headlines. My latest mock draft includes a mix of scouting reports, other mocks, and just a dash of personal bias. No trades, because the Chicago Bears will inevitably strike a deal worse than anything I could dream up. Let’s dive in.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Every year, my friend and I bet a dollar on who the No. 1 draft pick will be. Not this time. This pick is so certain that Lawrence has already made a $20,000 donation to Jacksonville charities. Jets fans might want to close their eyes.

2. New York Jets — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Unless you count Chad Pennington, which you shouldn’t, the last notable quarterback drafted by the Jets was Joe Namath. Wilson joins the team as yet another franchise savior, with the mobility and playmaking ability to bring some excitement to a worn out fan base. 

3. San Francisco 49ers — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

San Francisco isn’t done swapping picks, and they may trade down here. What the team needs is an offensive playmaker, and the only one worthy of being drafted this high is TE Kyle Pitts — a position the Niners obviously have covered. But if they do stay put at No. 3, they’ll almost certainly upgrade at quarterback and try to run back their 2019 Super Bowl season.

4. Atlanta Falcons — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Atlanta has been telling people that Matt Ryan still has a few years of quality football left, and they may not be bluffing. They’ll pass on a quarterback here to pair Pitts with wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, creating one of the most intimidating receiving corps in football — if they don’t trade down.

5. Cincinnati Bengals — Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is an option, but franchise quarterback Joe Burrow is returning from an ACL tear and needs better protection. Sewell is as good as it gets: 331 pounds of explosive ability with a high football IQ.

6. Miami Dolphins — Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Miami’s front office will panic if the Falcons take Pitts, but celebrate when the Bengals choose Sewell. Chase is a transcendent receiver like the Dolphins have never had, with the quickness and route running ability to compensate for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s growing pains.

7. Detroit Lions — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Detroit is entering a rebuild, and they’re better off riding it out with Jared Goff than taking a flyer at quarterback here. The best option is to find a reliable offensive lineman, but Sewell is the only truly elite prospect. Instead, the Lions “settle” for Waddle and bank on finding their quarterback with a top five pick next year. 

8. Carolina Panthers — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

The Panthers didn’t give up that much for Sam Darnold, and there’s no way for them to be confident he’s the guy. If Fields is still available at No. 8, he’s going to Carolina. Head coach Matt Rhule will be willing to have an open competition in training camp, one that Fields will likely win.

9. Denver Broncos — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

The poor Broncos are always stuck in the middle: not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to draft a top quarterback. They’ve missed too many times at the position, so they’ll settle for Surtain, a proven corner with the size to match up with the league’s best.

10. Dallas Cowboys — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The Dallas defense was embarrassing last year, finishing 28th in points allowed. Pass rush is more of an immediate need, but Jerry Jones has a history of taking the best player available. Horn has more talent than any of this year’s defensive ends.

11. New York Giants — Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

Sometime in the distant future, the Giants will enter a draft without gaping holes along the offensive line. That day is not today. Slater is smaller than most tackles but has an NFL-ready skill set, something New York has repeatedly learned is necessary in a prospect.

12. Philadelphia Eagles — Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Speaking of embarrassing NFC East facts, the Eagles haven’t had a 1,000-yard wide receiver since 2014. The top option on their depth chart is Jalen Reagor, who you’ve probably never heard of if you’re not an Eagles fan. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Smith reunite with quarterback Jalen Hurts?

13. Los Angeles Chargers — Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech

The rule still applies: protect your young quarterback. It will be tempting to give Justin Herbert another weapon, but the Chargers need to elevate a left tackle position that has been mediocre for too long.

14. Minnesota Vikings — Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan 

The Vikings totaled 23 sacks last year, and their best defensive end had 3.5. There’s better value than Paye available here, but they won’t go very far in January if they don’t address their problems on the edge.

15. New England Patriots — Trey Lance, QB, N. Dakota St.

Lance is not going to last until the fifteenth pick, but the Patriots have been linked to him for a while either way. Bill Belichick usually isn’t one for splashy trades, but he may need to make an exception to find Tom Brady’s successor. Perhaps a deal with the Falcons could be coming?

16. Arizona Cardinals — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

The Cardinals have already surrounded Kyler Murray with enough weapons to succeed. A recent back surgery has most experts projecting that Farley will fall to the end of the first round, but when healthy he’s the clear-cut best corner in the class. Someone’s going to take a chance on him.

17. Oakland Raiders — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.

John Gruden has a history of making head-scratching picks, but this should be a no-brainer. Linebacker isn’t an obvious need, but Parsons is a top-ten talent that could get lost in the frenzy of quarterbacks and wide receivers.

18. Miami Dolphins — Jeremiah Owsu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

The Dolphins desperately need an edge rusher, but there isn’t much high-end talent at the position this year. Owusu-Koramoah should help shore up a run defense that lacks a big playmaker and ranked 23rd in tackles for loss last year.

19. Washington Football Team — Zaven Collins, DE, Tulsa

If Washington doesn’t make a big trade to move up the board, they could be starting Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. If they stay put, there won’t be an offensive player that makes sense here. Instead, they’ll bolster an already fearsome pass rush with Collins, a speedy complement to Chase Young.

20. Chicago Bears — Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma St.

The Bears have two options here: offer up the farm to San Francisco for the second time in four drafts and risk setting the franchise back years like they did with Mitch Trubisky, or try and address their need at right tackle. Jenkins has the raw power to be a starter for years.

21. Indianapolis Colts — Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Indianapolis lost to the Bills in the postseason because they had no reliable wide receivers. New quarterback Carson Wentz became a laughing stock in Philadelphia because he had no reliable wide receivers. Guess who the Colts are drafting? They could probably trade down and still end up with Bateman or Elijah Moore.

22. Tennessee Titans — Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

After a failed experiment with Jadeveon Clowney, the Titans are still an edge rusher away from joining the upper echelon of NFL teams. Phillips comes with some injury concerns, but his intangibles are too good to pass up. Besides, Derrick Henry could probably play defensive end if they really needed him to.

23. New York Jets — Azeez Ojuliar, DE, Georgia

With needs at basically every position, the Jets go best player available. Their front seven lacks an identity but is closer to success than you might think.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Reports have suggested that the Steelers let James Conner walk because they’re locked into a running back at No. 24. The offense hasn’t looked right since Le’veon Bell’s holdout, and while I’m not convinced Harris is a first round talent, he seems destined to be the pick here.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars —  Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

Trevor Lawrence wasn’t enough? The Jets get some small measure of revenge by taking Ojuilar off the board, so the Jags give Lawrence an intelligent deep threat who went for 602 yards in his final three games.

26. Cleveland Browns — Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing the Browns picking outside the top 10. Last year, Cleveland learned the hard way that the road to the Super Bowl rests on stopping the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Newsome gives the Browns’ 22nd-ranked pass defense a better shot this time around.

27. Baltimore Ravens — Richie Grant, S, UCF

The Ravens are yet another wideout-needy team, but there won’t be good value with Moore and Bateman gone. Grant is a little rough around the edges, but his speed will gel with Baltimore’s approach. Some scouts have him falling to the second round, but the Ravens often buck expectations in the draft with success (see: Lamar Jackson).

28. New Orleans Saints — Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

The Saints’ needs don’t match up with the players who will be available here, partially because they don’t actually have many needs. Moehrig is a low-risk pick with the personality to be a locker room leader as the franchise turns a corner without Drew Brees.

29. Green Bay Packers — Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Finally. The Packers bow to pressure from their fans by drafting Toney as the door slowly closes on their Super Bowl window. He’s also taken a few snaps at quarterback, and for some reason Green Bay seems to like giving Aaron Rodgers competition. (That was a joke, but so is Jordan Love).

30. Buffalo Bills — Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn St.

Just like with the Browns, it’s all about stopping Kansas City. Oweh has the reflexes to harass Patrick Mahomes and keeps the Bills on track to build the best defense in the league. 

31. Kansas City Chiefs — Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama

After releasing former No. 1 pick Eric Fisher, the Chiefs desperately need someone to step up at left tackle. Leatherwood has the versatility and experience to play anywhere on the line.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

It’s anyone’s guess whether the Bucs’ pass rush is actually the juggernaut that won them a Super Bowl or the inept group we saw in the first half of the season. Regardless, pressure up front is their path towards repeating as champs, and you can’t have too much of a good thing.

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