A Way-Too-Early 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trevor Lawrence Isn't Top QB Prospect
Uncertainty continues to surround football. No one knows exactly what the NFL and college football seasons will look like this fall. However, there will assuredly be a 2021 NFL draft after the league decided to move forward with the 2020 event, albeit virtually, this spring and set a viewership record.
As such, preparation for the '21 class continues unabated.
It's going to be a hotly debated group since Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is already being billed as a generational talent, though he might not be the best quarterback at the collegiate level.
The last three No. 1 overall picks were prospects who transferred and weren't even considered first-round targets prior to their final seasons on campus. That should contextualize how the evaluation process can drastically change between now and next April.
If FBS schools meet on the gridiron this year, evaluations will evolve and may provide a few surprises. If not, last year's film provides an indicator of which prospects should already be highly regarded.
Of course, this way-too-early mock draft starts with a quarterback, but not the one many expect.
Draft slotting determined by Caesars Sportsbook's projected win totals with ties broken by coin flips, as the league does to differentiate between identical records.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
While the game continues to evolve and how the quarterback position is viewed changes, one thing remains the same: A signal-caller must be able to consistently deliver from the pocket.
Some would argue Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is better in this regard because of his ability to stand tall and make any throw when nothing could be further from the truth.
According to Pro Football Focus, Justin Fields graded as college football's best pocket passer last season. He finished behind only this year's No. 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow, in clean pocket passing grade.
Inconsistency and poor decision-making can be found in Lawrence's play during the 2019 campaign, whereas Fields emerged as an extremely efficient operator in Ohio State's scheme.
The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year graded first in quick passes, third in lowest rate of uncatchable passes beyond the sticks and seventh in passing against pressure.
Once Fields' athleticism is added to the equation, he's every bit worth the No. 1 overall pick to a franchise like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will almost certainly be searching for a quarterback if they are picking in next year's top five.
2. Washington: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Washington football team owned the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft and landed arguably the best overall prospect in defensive end Chase Young. While the team would have to endure another tough season, it could very well end up in the same position less than a year from now.
Oregon's Penei Sewell should be considered the No. 1 draft prospect for the 2021 NFL draft before the season begins. At worst, he's the best non-quarterback prospect.
The reigning Outland Trophy winner makes everything look easy. The 6'6", 330-pound left tackle is quick out of his pass set and rarely allows pressure. He's even better in the run game where he consistently moves defenders off their spots. His all-around athleticism is effortless for a lineman of his size.
Elite offensive tackles are no longer sure things like they used to be, but Sewell is easily the best prospect since Joe Thomas entered the league 13 years ago.
Since Washington moved on from Trent Williams this offseason, Sewell is the logical choice.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
The Cincinnati Bengals' only goal from this point forward is to build the best team possible around this year's No. 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow.
The Bengals front office would take a massive step toward achieving this by adding Burrow's favorite target from LSU.
Last season, Ja'Marr Chase led major college football with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns. Also, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner was the only wide receiver with 65 or more catches to average 20 or more yards per reception.
Cincinnati has a chance to build a young and dynamic receiving corps. A.J. Green isn't under contract beyond the 2020 campaign, but a trio of Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins can grow with Burrow and give the quarterback an exceptional group of targets with varying skill sets.
Chase excelled working from the slot where he averaged 24.3 yards per reception, per Pro Football Focus, even though he regularly works outside the numbers. He's the best all-around receiver in what should be another stacked class.
4. Carolina Panthers: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
The Carolina Panthers are teetering on the abyss with a chance to climb back toward solid footing. But little room for error exists after the franchise moved on from multiple established veterans this offseason with the intention of building the offense around new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and featuring a very young defense.
If Matt Rhule's previous stops are any indication, Carolina will likely be much worse before the situation gets better. That's OK, because the potential long-term benefit could be massive.
Trevor Lawrence's availability to the Panthers would be a dream come true for the franchise. Lawrence may not be the type of prospect he's billed to be, but he's still a fantastic talent. At 6'6" and 220 pounds with outstanding natural arm talent and athleticism, the preferred physical tools are present.
In Lawrence's case, he must continue to build upon the second half of last season after a slow start to his sophomore campaign. All eight of his interceptions came within the first seven games.
The Panthers are drafting among the top five in this scenario, meaning the Bridgewater experiment will likely be done since the team can save $8 million after designating him a post-June 1 cut, per Over the Cap.
5. New York Giants: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
The New York Giants have used three straight top-10 picks on offensive prospects. It's time to spend a high-end asset on the other side of the ball. In this scenario, the organization is positioned to take the first defensive player off the board.
As a redshirt freshman, Miami's Gregory Rousseau finished second at the FBS level with 15.5 sacks (one behind Chase Young) and tied for seventh with 19.5 tackles for loss.
The 6'7", 253-pound Rousseau is far from a finished product since he needs to improve upon his first-step explosion and working off the edge to pressure opposing quarterbacks. But his length and athleticism make him difficult to handle, especially for interior offensive linemen when the defensive end moves inside during certain sub-packages.
The reigning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year should continue to develop and mature, making him even more difficult to handle.
Last season, the Giants finished in the bottom half of the league with 36 sacks, and the squad's top sack artist, Markus Golden, has yet to re-sign.
6. Miami Dolphins: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
The Miami Dolphins drafted their offensive field general with this year's fifth overall pick. Tua Tagovailoa will lead the team into the future, while the organization will have an opportunity to find his defensive equivalent during next year's draft.
Penn State's Micah Parsons can serve as Brian Flores' version of Dont'a Hightower—a physical presence at inside linebacker with the capability of wreaking havoc upon opposing backfields.
As a converted defensive end, the 2019 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year is comfortable working downhill, taking on blocks and disengaging. In his two seasons playing off the ball, Parsons has accumulated 191 total tackles and 18 tackles for loss. He's a sure tackler, though he can overplay his angles a tad.
As his comfort level working in space grows, his overall value will continue to increase. This isn't to say Parsons is terrible in coverage. He's not. He deflected five passes last season and has the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends. He's simply better rushing the passer. According to Pro Football Focus, the sophomore posted 21 total pressures on 78 pass rushes, including three sacks, six quarterback hits and 12 hurries.
With Raekwon McMillan set to enter the last year of his rookie deal, Parsons could take over as the Dolphins' "Mike" linebacker.
7. Detroit Lions: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The Detroit Lions, as they're currently constructed, can't handle another season with a bottom-10 finish. Head coach Matt Patricia, general manager Bob Quinn and quarterback Matthew Stafford probably won't survive another failed campaign.
Stafford isn't at the root of the team's problems, but the Lions can't rationalize a $33 million salary-cap hit next season if they continue to lose. Instead, the team can release Stafford after 12 seasons, save $14 million and invest in another first-round quarterback.
North Dakota State is becoming a pipeline of quarterback talent. Trey Lance is next, and he falls much closer to Carson Wentz (2016 second overall pick) on the prospect scale than Easton Stick (2019 fifth-round selection).
As a redshirt sophomore, Lance led the Bison to their eighth FCS national title and an undefeated record while providing 42 total touchdowns and zero interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, the reigning Walter Payton Award winner dropped back to pass 335 times and committed only four turnover-worthy plays. The 6'3", 224-pound quarterback also led North Dakota State with 1,100 rushing yards.
Lance is very much in the conversation to be the first quarterback selected.
8. New York Jets: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
The Alabama Crimson Tide Should have four first-round wide receivers selected through the 2020 and '21 draft classes.
Of those four options, the two with the fewest receiving yards could end up being the first two off the board. This year, the Las Vegas Raiders chose Henry Ruggs III with the No. 12 selection before Jerry Jeudy came off the board three picks later.
Next year, Jaylen Waddle could realistically be drafted higher than both and current teammate DeVonta Smith because of his speed and creativity in the open field.
Waddle is a dynamic threat with the ball in his hands. He leads all returning Power Five wide receivers with an average of 12.2 yards after catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus. Waddle's 560 receiving yards a year ago may not be impressive on paper, but he's only a season removed from posting 848 yards as a true freshman. Plus, those numbers don't take into account his impact in the return game where he has 720 career punt-return yards and three total touchdowns.
The New York Jets need to add more weapons around Sam Darnold. Waddle brings a completely different skill set than Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims.
9. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The Las Vegas Raiders left many scratching their heads when general manager Mike Mayock selected Damon Arnette with this year's 19th overall pick. Most viewed the selection as a massive reach, though Arnette is a quality defensive back with the ability to flex between outside and nickel corner.
As such, the cornerback position shouldn't be overlooked in the 2021 draft because Arnette didn't solve the Raiders' secondary issues, hence why the franchise signed Prince Amukamara to a one-year, $1.2 million contract.
Alabama's Patrick Surtain II was made to play cornerback. His bloodline and natural tools are undeniable. His father, Patrick Surtain, played 11 seasons in the NFL as a cornerback and made three Pro Bowls. The younger defensive back stands 6'2" and 203 pounds. He's a prototypical outside corner even as Alabama's coaching staff considers moving him to the "Star"/nickelback position.
Surtain has the length teams prefer. He tied for the Crimson Tide team lead last season with eight pass breakups. Added versatility will only raise his draft stock.
His potential addition could create even more flexibility within the Raiders secondary. Arnette and Surtain can play inside or outside without being exposed. The trio of Arnette, Surtain and Trayvon Mullen would give Las Vegas one of the league's best young cornerback rooms.
10. Miami Dolphins (from HOU) : DT Marvin Wilson, Florida State
The Miami Dolphins are back on the clock with yet another first-round draft pick—their fifth through two draft classes. Earlier, the organization invested in its linebacker corps with Micah Parsons, and it has a second top-10 pick to continue the defensive fortifications.
Marvin Wilson's potential addition would create a very talented group along with Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah.
The Florida State defensive tackle is extremely athletic and explosive. The 6'5", 310-pound defender led the Seminoles with five sacks before suffering a season-ending hand injury.
As good as Wilson already is—he's the top-rated defensive tackle entering the season—he can continue to improve his pad level and leverage off the snap. At the collegiate level, he'll continue to dominate at the point of attack because he's stronger and more athletic than most offensive linemen he'll face.
Wilson's addition creates plenty of flexibility for Miami to utilize all of its defensive linemen in numerous packages.
11. Atlanta Falcons: S Jevon Holland, Oregon
The Atlanta Falcons can't pass on an opportunity to land a two-for-one prospect while continuing to revamp the team's secondary.
Jevon Holland is equally a standout safety and nickel prospect. He may be the best individual performer at each position. Technically, the 6'1", 200-pound defensive back is listed as a safety, but he often spends more time working over the slot than a traditional free or strong safety.
Holland's versatility alone will generate significant interest because today's league is built on being able to match up with opposing offenses while substituting as little as possible. It's a sub-package world. The junior also displays outstanding ball skills.
The Oregon defender is one of three returning FBS players to snag four or more interceptions in each of the last two seasons. In total, Holland defended 28 passes during that span.
Not only do the Falcons need more cornerback help, but Holland's potential selection could also serve as an insurance policy at safety since Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee are entering the final season of their current contracts.
12. Arizona Cardinals: CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State
The Arizona Cardinals should operate as if Patrick Peterson won't return once his contract ends.
Peterson is less than two years removed from demanding a trade, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. So far this offseason, the organization hasn't engaged in any contract extension talks with the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback, according to Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official site.
The team could also move on from Robert Alford after this season since his release would save $7.5 million.
Those potential moves could leave Arizona very thin at cornerback.
Ohio State's Shaun Wade is arguably the best cornerback prospect in the 2021 class. Wade is a smooth operator out of the slot. He'll move to outside corner this fall, which will help determine if he really is the top cornerback prospect or others leapfrog him (like Alabama's Patrick Surtain II).
For the Cardinals, the need to address both outside and nickel corner is significant, though Byron Murphy can play both. They also have Budda Baker, who enters the final year of his current contract as well. Arizona would have plenty of flexibility in the secondary to mix and match its coverage looks.
13. Denver Broncos: OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
The Denver Broncos never found themselves in a position to address left tackle after three seasons of disappointing play from 2017 first-round pick Garett Bolles, who didn't have his fifth-year rookie option picked up this offseason.
Bolles has one more opportunity to secure the Broncos' blind side, or the franchise will look to address the position next year.
Texas' Samuel Cosmi would be considered the top tackle prospect in most classes, but he's going to be overshadowed by Oregon's Penei Sewell throughout the process. The 6'7", 310-pound redshirt junior is still an outstanding talent.
Cosmi is a fluid athlete who explodes out of his stance and gets into blocks very quickly. His potential as a pass protector is top-notch, though he'll need to anchor better and improve his functional strength during his final year on campus.
Denver's offense has the potential to develop into something special as long as Drew Lock remains upright to feed the ball to all of his playmakers.
14. Chicago Bears: QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
As soon as the Chicago Bears turned down Mitchell Trubisky's fifth-year rookie option, the team basically sealed the quarterback's fate. Unless Trubisky unexpectedly blossoms into a franchise quarterback, Nick Foles will start for the Bears at some point this fall.
The team will likely be searching for its next face of the franchise as the 2021 NFL draft nears. Foles would probably stay on and serve as a one-year bridge quarterback. Or the organization could release the veteran and designate him a post-June 1 cut, which would only cost an extra $1 million.
Chicago likely won't be in a position to select an elite prospect, but there are plenty of interesting developmental options to take the reins.
Jamie Newman, who transferred to Georgia from Wake Forest, is intriguing. The 6'4", 230-pound signal-caller provided 32 total touchdowns, 2,868 passing yards and 574 rushing yards last season. How he adapts to the Bulldogs offense in Todd Monken's vertical passing game will determine how high he'll be drafted. According to Pro Football Focus, Newman attempted 71 passes 20 or more yards downfield with only one designated turnover-worthy.
15. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Walker Little, Stanford
Left tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers might be the biggest void on any NFL roster now that the majority of free agency and the draft are in the rear-view mirror.
Trey Pipkins, Sam Tevi and Forrest Lamp will compete to earn the starting job. The Chargers invested a third-round pick in Pipkins a year ago, and new offensive line coach James Campen has a history of developing mid-round talents into quality starters. But the young blocker has yet to establish himself.
As such, left tackle will remain a need area until someone on the roster proves it isn't.
Stanford's Walker Little immediately claimed the Cardinal's left tackle job as a true freshman. The elite recruit displayed first-round potential from the get-go. He became the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Co-Player of the Year in 2017 and a first-team All-Pac-12 performer as a sophomore.
Unfortunately, Little suffered a dislocated kneecap in the 2019 season opener, which wiped out his junior campaign. But the 6'7", 320-pounder looked smooth in his pass set recently while working with former NFL offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
Little has allowed only four quarterback hits in 633 career pass-block snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Earlier, the Jacksonville Jaguars invested in their new franchise quarterback. Now, the organization should build a better cockpit by adding talented playmakers around Justin Fields.
DJ Chark experienced a breakout performance in 2019 with 1,008 receiving yards and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. The Jaguars also drafted Laviska Shenault Jr. in this year's second round. But Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley are free agents after the 2020 campaign.
Alabama's DeVonta Smith would bring a different skill set compared to Chark and Shenault.
Smith has the quickness off the snap to beat the jam despite his slender frame (6'1", 175 pounds) and get behind cornerbacks. His long speed creates a consistent vertical threat opposing defenses must account for at all times. According to Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash, 32.9 percent of Smith's receptions over the last two seasons went for 15 or more yards, the highest rate of any collegiate wide receiver.
The fourth Alabama receiver selected during the last two drafts in this scenario, Smith led the Crimson Tide last season with 1,256 receiving yards and 14 touchdown receptions.
17. Cleveland Browns: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
The Cleveland Browns may have a massive overhaul coming along their defensive front.
Myles Garrett will likely be signed to a long-term, lucrative contract extension. But the majority of the defensive line isn't under contract beyond the 2020 campaign. Olivier Vernon, Larry Ogunjobi and Andrew Billings are set to enter free agency after the upcoming season. The team can also save $12 million by releasing veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
One or two may be retained, but reinforcements are needed.
Alabama's Christian Barmore displayed as much upside as any player last season, but he's far from a polished prospect. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6'5", 310-pound redshirt sophomore led all defensive tackles in pass-rush win rate (Javon Kinlaw finished second). This fall, he'll be counted upon as a full-time starter.
Cleveland spent this offseason rebuilding its offensive line. General manager Andrew Berry should give the defensive line the same level of attention next year and make Barmore a foundational building block.
18. Tennessee Titans: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
The Tennessee Titans found a legit WR1 in the second round of the 2019 draft when the team selected A.J. Brown, who led all rookies with 1,051 receiving yards.
The organization wasn't as fortunate when it drafted Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick in 2017. Tennessee declined to pick up Davis' fifth-year rookie option earlier this offseason. The 25-year-old target is effective in the Titans' scheme, but he hasn't developed to expected levels and could move on to another team next year.
If that were to occur, the Titans should look to maximize the effectiveness of Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry by addressing the skill positions.
Minnesota's Rashod Bateman was one of three FBS receivers with 60 or more catches last season to average over 20 yards per reception, along with CeeDee Lamb and Ja'Marr Chase. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Lamb 17th overall this year, while Chase came off the board with the third pick in this mock.
Bateman's ability to stretch the field would be an excellent complement to Brown, who excels at creating after the catch.
19. Green Bay Packers: WR Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
The Green Bay Packers did the unthinkable this offseason when the front office failed to add another weapon at wide receiver. Davante Adams can't do it alone, and those currently on the roster haven't showed they're capable of being legitimate secondary options.
The organization can't make the same mistake two years in a row. It already passed on the position despite a historic class. The top of the 2021 class could be as good, if not better, with four options already off the board.
Wake Forest's Sage Surratt displays outstanding body control and emerged as one of the nation's best at contested catches. According to Pro Football Focus, Surratt hauled in 18 contested catches on 30 opportunities, which makes jump balls thrown his way a 60/40 proposition. The first-team All-ACC performer set career highs last season with 66 catches for 1,001 yards before a shoulder injury derailed his redshirt sophomore campaign.
The Packers must do everything in the franchise's power to help Aaron Rodgers during his final seasons in Green Bay and pave the way for Jordan Love when it's his turn to run the offense.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
Safeties are more important than ever. The game has evolved to the point where sub-packages are the norm and positionless players are necessary so a defense won't be exposed.
The Philadelphia Eagles featured one of the best multipurpose defenders over the last six seasons in Malcolm Jenkins, but the front office declined the 32-year-old defensive back's contract option this offseason, and he signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Jalen Mills and Will Parks, meanwhile, aren't under contract beyond the upcoming season.
Florida State's Hamsah Nasirildeen could help an NFL defense in a number of ways. The 6'4", 212-pound defender has the potential to step in as an oversize safety or smaller, more athletic linebacker. The second-team All-ACC honoree can be seen playing near the line of scrimmage, dropping deep into coverage and even locking up with opposing wide receivers, much like Jenkins once did.
K'Von Wallace, whom the team selected in this year's fourth round, could emerge as an excellent complement to free safety Rodney McLeod. Even so, Nasirildeen's varied skill set would allow the Eagles to employ plenty of big nickel looks or improve one of the league's worst linebacker units.
21. Indianapolis Colts: DE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
The Indianapolis Colts invested heavily in their defensive line with the acquisition of DeForest Buckner, and they shouldn't stop there.
Justin Houston, who will turn 32 next year, is a free agent after the upcoming season. He's the only defensive lineman still on the roster to register more than 3.5 sacks with the Colts last year. Buckner will provide a significant boost, but more of an edge presence will be needed.
Wake Forest's Carlos Basham Jr. has consistently improved over the past three seasons. He went from no sacks as a redshirt freshman to 10 as a junior. He notched 18 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles a year ago as well. The first-team All-ACC performer relies more on power and working through a blocker than turning the edge against offensive tackles. The 6'5", 275-pound defender's motor always runs hot, though, and he's in constant pursuit.
Having Basham work the edge while Buckner collapses the pocket would create an excellent one-two punch along the Colts' defensive front.
22. New England Patriots: C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
In doing so, quarterback becomes far less of a concern. If Newton excels, the Patriots can extend him next offseason. If not, the team still has Jarrett Stidham as a developmental option. Either way, the franchise appears good enough to be slotted in a playoff spot based on current projections.
As such, the Patriots can concentrate on other areas of the roster, specifically the offensive line.
The team and left guard Joe Thuney have yet to reach a long-term deal, and he could play the 2020 campaign under the franchise tag. Center David Andrews has been cleared by doctors to play this fall after sitting out last season with blood clots in his lungs, but he's scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
Oklahoma's Creed Humphrey could fill either position if those individuals aren't with the team. The 6'5", 307-pound blocker started 26 games at center over the last two seasons. He registered 93 total knockdowns and didn't allow a sack last year, according to Oklahoma's official site.
The Patriots fielded the league's best offensive interior two seasons ago. Drafting Humphrey to play with Thuney or Andrews and Shaq Mason should allow New England to regain that title.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Dylan Moses, Alabama
The Pittsburgh Steelers' season hinges on Ben Roethlisberger's reconstructed right elbow. If the team selects somewhere in the 20s, as it does here, that means the 38-year-old quarterback returned to form and the team remained competitive, taking it out of the range necessary to invest in a top quarterback prospect.
The front office could invest in a developmental option or continue to build the rest of the roster. In this case, Pittsburgh does the latter.
Alabama's Dylan Moses has the skill set to be drafted much earlier, but his current standing is dependent on his recovery after missing the 2019 campaign with a torn ACL.
Moses can be the perfect complement to Devin Bush as Vince Williams' replacement. The 6'3", 235-pound prospect is an excellent athlete and downhill defender, though he could improve upon his feel for working in space. The Steelers can save $4 million by releasing Williams, who turns 31 in December, after this season.
Bush and Moses at inside linebacker with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree (if he agrees to a long-term contract) working the edge would easily give Pittsburgh the game's best linebacker corps.
24. Minnesota Vikings: OG Trey Smith, Tennessee
Guards don't often warrant first-round consideration. Only special interior blockers hear their names called in the opening frame with just three selected there in the last five drafts.
Tennessee's Trey Smith has the skill set to dominate at the next level.
The 6'6", 335-pound lineman has the athleticism to play left tackle—which he did during his first two seasons at Tennessee—yet more than enough power to consistently win at the point of attack.
Concerns arise with Smith's history of blood clots in his lungs. He returned last season and played in all 13 games. NFL franchises will thoroughly evaluate Smith's examinations, which will help determine how high he'll be drafted.
The Minnesota Vikings could revamp their offensive left side. As of now, Riley Reiff is expected to remain at left tackle, but the franchise drafted Ezra Cleveland in this year's second round. Left guard Pat Elflein has been a disappointment, and a potential upgrade is a priority next offseason. Smith would be the answer and could team with Cleveland to create a highly athletic and talented pair of blockers.
25. Buffalo Bills: CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
The Buffalo Bills already feature one of the league's best secondaries, but the idea of building upon a strength should be appealing, especially in today's pass-first world.
The cornerback spot opposite Tre'Davious White isn't exactly settled either.
Levi Wallace, Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines will compete for the starting role. Norman and Gaines—both of whom signed one-year deals this offseason—may not be with the team next year, while Wallace is scheduled to be a restricted free agent.
Stanford's Paulson Adebo is coming off a down year after an outstanding sophomore campaign. During the 2018 season, the 6'1", 192-pound cornerback displayed top-notch ball skills with four interceptions and 17 defended passes. Adebo doubled his interception production with four more picks during the '19 campaign, but he wasn't as sticky in coverage and took too many risks, and the two-time All-Pac-12 performer was burned on multiple occasions.
The skills are present for Adebo to be a first-round draft selection and elite NFL corner as long as he shows more consistency during his final season on campus.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
Jaylen Twyman isn't going to make anyone forget about Aaron Donald, but Pitt's latest standout defensive lineman should post outstanding numbers during his junior campaign after registering 12 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2019.
Twyman is a 3-technique by trade since he's smaller (6'2", 290 pounds) than a typical defensive tackle. But he thrives on his ability to disengage from blocks and shoot gaps. His upper-body strength is apparent based on how he stacks and sheds blockers, though he can be overwhelmed at the point of attack.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers utilize a base three-man front, but Twyman won't be out of place as a 3-tech capable of bumping out to a 4i or 5-technique. Is he an ideal fit? Probably not. But it's more about production and how the prospect would complement Vita Vea.
Plus, Ndamukong Suh is playing under another one-year contract, while the Buccaneers can save $5.5 million next offseason by cutting William Gholston, whose contract doesn't have any remaining guaranteed money.
Tampa Bay experienced the offseason of a lifetime this year. It'll only be worth it if the rest of the roster is built to sustain success.
27. Seattle Seahawks: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
The Seattle Seahawks will have a major decision to make next offseason when the front office must choose to invest a hefty contract extension into running back Chris Carson or move on from the team's leading rusher.
The Seahawks don't devalue the running back position as much as other franchises, which is clear from their reliance on the ground game and a 2018 first-round investment in Rashaad Penny. But Penny hasn't proved he can stay healthy.
Travis Etienne would have likely been RB1 if he declared for this year's draft. Instead, he decided to return to Clemson for another season. Etienne isn't considered a "big back" at 210 pounds, but his ability to run through tackles and make defenders miss is extraordinary. He led college football last season in forced missed tackles and yards after contact per attempt, per Pro Football Focus.
But the two-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year is more than a tough runner. Etienne is a home run hitter out of the backfield. According to PFF's Anthony Treash, 22.7 percent of his runs last season resulted in gains of 10 or more yards. Plus, the back improved as a receiver during his junior campaign with a career-high 37 catches.
28. Dallas Cowboys: TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
Last season, the Dallas Cowboys relied on a 37-year-old Jason Witten to take the majority of snaps at the tight end position.
Witten managed 63 receptions, but he set a career low with 8.4 yards per reception. He signed with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason. The Cowboys, meanwhile, re-signed Blake Jarwin to a four-year, $22 million contract. He'll get an opportunity to show he can be the full-time starter and a legit threat in the receiving game.
However, Dallas may not want to overlook an opportunity to select the best all-around tight end prospect in the class. Penn State's Pat Freiermuth is a rare collegiate tight end. He's both a legitimate in-line option and a potential mismatch in the passing game.
The 6'5", 259-pound target, who caught 43 passes for 507 yards last season, continues to draw Rob Gronkowski comparisons.
"I don't know what his limit is," Penn State tight ends coach Tyler Bowen told the Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan. "But the thing that makes him unique is he can be a good player in every phase of tight end play. He can be a dominant run-blocker. He can be a dominant pass protector, and he can be dominant in the pass game."
29. San Francisco 49ers: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Surprisingly, the San Francisco 49ers didn't make any significant offseason additions to their cornerback room even though Richard Sherman is 32 and there are question marks opposite the five-time Pro Bowl defensive back.
Granted, the front office had to deal with financial restrictions thanks to numerous big deals already on the books and another lucrative agreement around the corner when (not if) San Francisco makes George Kittle the game's highest-paid tight end.
Still, the 49ers didn't even draft a corner to push Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon. The need will become even more glaring next offseason since Sherman and Witherspoon are unrestricted free agents.
Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley might be the best cornerback in the upcoming class, but he suffered an unspecified season-ending injury that will surely draw the scrutiny of NFL teams.
If healthy and cleared, Farley has the physical skill set every team wants at the position. He's 6'2" and 207 pounds with outstanding long speed. He allowed the second-lowest quarterback rating when targeted last season, per Pro Football Focus. Farley's profile fits perfectly in a Cover 3-heavy scheme like Robert Saleh employs.
30. Baltimore Ravens: DT Tyler Shelvin, LSU
The Baltimore Ravens are one of the few teams that still value large space-eating defensive tackles. Most squads are searching for those who can collapse the pocket on a regular basis, sacrificing size along the interior to be better prepared for opposing passing attacks.
As such, LSU's Tyler Shelvin won't hold as much value for some NFL teams compared to others.
The 6'3", 346-pound redshirt junior is just tapping into his potential after becoming a full-time starter last season. His power at the point of attack is readily apparent, and he consistently draws the attention of multiple blockers. He's not much of a pass-rusher beyond a simple bull rush, though. If he improves in that phase of the game, his overall value will skyrocket. If not, he's still an athletic and talented big man who can control the middle of the line of scrimmage.
For the Baltimore Ravens, an overhaul to the team's defensive front will be forthcoming. The team can save $9.5 million by releasing Brandon Williams next offseason. Calais Campbell turns 35 in 2021. Plus, Derek Wolfe is scheduled to enter free agency after the upcoming campaign.
A powerhouse in the middle will help the Ravens reestablish a dominant front after transitioning from their current setup.
31. New Orleans Saints: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
A selection at this point in the draft means things went very well for the New Orleans Saints during the 2020 campaign. They can select the best available talent regardless of position.
The front office will have multiple spots to fill next offseason since Alvin Kamara, Demario Davis, Marcus Williams, Sheldon Rankins, Kiko Alonso, P.J. Williams and Jared Cook will be free agents.
Quarterback remains somewhat of a mystery as well if Drew Brees retires.
What's better for a new starting quarterback—whether it's Taysom Hill or a re-signed Jameis Winston—than giving him a security blanket in the form of a dynamic tight end?
Kyle Pitts is a tight end in title, but he's more of an oversized wide receiver capable of creating numerous mismatches in the passing game. The 6'6", 239-target is a seam stretcher who is good at gaining yards after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus, Pitts caught 25 of his 42 passes 10-plus yards downfield.
His inclusion alongside Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders would give whoever starts at quarterback a fantastic trio of receiving targets.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Elijah Molden, Washington
Technically, safety Tyrann Mathieu is the Kansas City Chiefs' nickel corner, but he split reps last season with Kendall Fuller, who is no longer with the organization after signing a free-agent deal with the Washington Redskins.
The Chiefs desperately need quality cornerback help.
Bashaud Breeland faces a potential league suspension after being arrested in April and charged on five counts, per the Post and Courier's Joshua Needelman: resisting arrest, the transport of alcohol in a motor vehicle with a broken seal, open container of beer or wine in a motor vehicle, possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana or 10 grams of hash, and driving without a license.
Breeland's potential absence will thrust 2019 sixth-round pick Rashad Fenton and this year's fourth-round pick, L'Jarius Sneed, into significant roles. Kansas City lacks overall cornerback depth.
Washington's Elijah Molden excelled covering the slot for the Washington Huskies. Pro Football Focus graded the Pac-12 product as the second-best returning Power Five cornerback in coverage last season. At 5'10" and 191 pounds, Molden isn't the biggest corner, but he's a tough defender. The nickel corner led Washington in 2019 with 79 total tackles to go along with four interceptions, 13 pass breakups and three forced fumbles.