Identifying Every NFL Team's Dream Draft Target in 2021
Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, every team will assemble a big board to navigate the selection process. Among the prospects, coaches and general managers have their favorites.
Unless a team has the No. 1 overall pick, the unpredictable nature of the draft doesn't provide any guarantees. Coaches cannot expect to see their top choice available when they're on the clock.
Let's change that reality and tap into the dreams of each team's decision-maker on draft day. Who would they want to see on the board whenever their pick comes up?
This isn't a first-round mock draft. In some cases, we've listed potential Day 2 prospects as the best roster fit or most suitable choice to fill a need. All 32 pairings are realistic based on selection order.
Arizona Cardinals: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
The Arizona Cardinals could start from scratch on the boundary of their secondary. Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick manned those positions this past season, but both will likely hit the open market.
ESPN's Josh Weinfuss doesn't expect the Cardinals to re-sign Peterson, and Kirkpatrick will turn 32 in October. Meanwhile, Robert Alford hasn't played since the 2018 season with the Atlanta Falcons because of a broken leg and a torn pectoral muscle.
Arizona needs some youth on the back end, and South Carolina's Jaycee Horn could be the perfect fit. He has the competitiveness and playmaking ability to become a lead cornerback on the pro level.
Horn's physical approach may draw flags early in his career, but he'll learn to adjust with good coaching. The Cardinals should want someone who isn't afraid to tackle and use physicality to mix it up with receivers downfield.
Through his three seasons at South Carolina, Horn recorded 101 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 23 pass breakups, three sacks and two interceptions. He'll flash all over the field. He just needs to harness his energy in certain situations.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
With a strong incoming class of quarterbacks, the Atlanta Falcons can take advantage of their draft spot at No. 4. General manager Terry Fontenot should plan for the long-term future as Matt Ryan prepares for his age-36 campaign.
Critics may knock Zach Wilson's limited starting experience because of past shoulder and hand injuries, but he wouldn't have to start right away in Atlanta with Ryan still capable of playing at a high level. Once Ryan began to decline, Wilson could take the baton and run with it.
The BYU product can make throws on all three levels of the field and isn't fazed by the pass rush. He extends plays with his legs but shows poise when he has to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a strike in the face of pressure.
Wilson didn't have a star-studded cast or attend a powerhouse program. His wideouts—Dax Milne, Gunner Romney and Neil Pau'u—aren't household names as prospects.
That didn't stop Wilson from throwing for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions with a 73.5 percent completion rate in a breakout 2020 campaign.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
If Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta doesn't love the top available edge-rushers at the back end of the first round, he could land a big-bodied wide receiver to fill another need.
Marquise Brown stretches the field with his speed, and tight end Mark Andrews has become Lamar Jackson's go-to target, but the Ravens still need a chain-mover on the perimeter. With only 32 receptions for 464 yards and seven touchdowns across 32 games, 6'4", 220-pound wideout Miles Boykin hasn't filled that void.
At 6'2" and 210 pounds, Rashod Bateman uses size and his basketball background as advantages on the football field. He high-points the ball and battles for 50-50 catches. He also doesn't go down easily. According to Pro Football Focus, he recorded 15 broken tackles in 2019.
Bateman can line up on the perimeter or move into the slot. He would also mesh with the Ravens' dominant ground attack as a play-action threat downfield. Going into the 2020 campaign, the Minnesota product had 32 receptions (third-most among returning receivers in Power Five conferences) off play action, per PFF.
Buffalo Bills: LB Nick Bolton, Missouri
The Buffalo Bills could lose a key piece of their front seven in free agency. Outside linebacker Matt Milano will test the open market, according to John Wawrow of the Associated Press, which suggests the team won't use the franchise tag on him.
If Milano signs a lucrative deal elsewhere, the Bills can reload at the position in April by taking a versatile linebacker out of Missouri.
Nick Bolton has the short-area burst with the ability to cover shallow zones on the second level. As a full-time starter over the last two seasons, he's accumulated 198 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions.
Although Bolton isn't an elite athlete, his football instincts serve him well at the position. He'll sniff out the run on early downs, fire through gaps for stops in the backfield and has enough speed to cover athletic tight ends. His adequate lateral quickness helps him chase down running backs in the flat, too.
Next to linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Bolton could fill an every-down role.
Carolina Panthers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The Carolina Panthers have already tried to upgrade at quarterback this offseason.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Panthers offered Teddy Bridgewater, the eighth overall pick and a fifth-rounder for Matthew Stafford before the Detroit Lions agreed to send him to the Los Angeles Rams in the new league year. Per The MMQB's Albert Breer, team owner David Tepper is "obsessed" with the idea of landing a franchise quarterback.
Carolina can select its quarterback of the future with the No. 8 overall pick.
North Dakota State's Trey Lance played only one full season in a starting role, but he has significant upside. His skill set fits with how the position has evolved in recent years.
Lance can move the pocket, throw on the run, force defenders to guess on run-pass options and toss an accurate 50-yarder downfield to speedy receivers such as DJ Moore and Robby Anderson.
Carolina would need to develop Lance for at least a year, but the young signal-caller has the tools to succeed in today's game. In 19 games with the Bison, he threw for 2,947 yards, 30 touchdowns and only one interception along with 1,325 yards and 18 scores on the ground.
Chicago Bears: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
Unless they find a dependable starting quarterback, the Chicago Bears may have to adopt a run-heavy offense for the 2021 season. Nick Foles, who hasn't played a full 16-game slate in his nine-year career, is their only signal-caller under contract at the moment.
To create wide-open lanes for running back David Montgomery, the Bears should add power and youth to their front line. General manager Ryan Pace can designate 31-year-old right tackle Bobby Massie as a post-June 1 cut and save $8 million.
At Oklahoma State, Teven Jenkins played both tackle positions. He had a key role in the Cowboys' rushing offense, which ranked 17th in yards per game in 2019. Running back Chuba Hubbard ran for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns that season.
Jenkins could make a similar impact in Chicago. He can seal the corners and keep athletic defenders out of the backfield. If the Bears design outside runs for Tarik Cohen, he would find an alley behind the 6'6", 320-pound tackle.
Jenkins' ability to wall off defensive linemen of all types should help him earn a starting spot in Week 1.
Cincinnati Bengals: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
As 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow recovers from a torn ACL, the Cincinnati Bengals should think about his long-term future. The rookie quarterback was pressured on 24.1 percent of his dropbacks through 10 outings.
The Bengals can use the fifth overall pick to select Penei Sewell and then shift Jonah Williams to right tackle, which would move Bobby Hart to a reserve role. According to Pro Football Focus, Hart allowed only four sacks this past year, but he allowed a lot of pressure.
Williams lined up on the right side during his freshman season at Alabama. Although he's long removed from his experience at the position, the second-year pro hasn't quite established himself as the Bengals left tackle, having played only 10 games.
At 6'5" and 325 pounds, Sewell plays with a mean streak that the Bengals need in the trenches. He goes on the attack and clears space beyond the line of scrimmage. Despite his size, the Oregon product can shift his feet and mirror speed-rushers as well.
Cincinnati shouldn't pass up an imposing talent in favor of keeping the status quo at tackle. Sewell possesses the traits of a potential All-Pro player.
Cleveland Browns: Edge Joe Tryon, Washington
The Cleveland Browns need an edge-rusher with speed and athleticism opposite of Myles Garrett.
In January, defensive end Olivier Vernon tore his Achilles. Although he could return on a modest one-year deal, the 30-year-old will likely need time to hit his stride again.
Although Washington edge-rusher Joe Tryon doesn't have much buzz early in the draft evaluation process, he could be exactly what Cleveland needs.
Critics may call Tryon a one-trick pass-rusher because of his go-to bull rush off the edge, but he can apply constant pressure when he adds a spin or uses his hands to rip through offensive linemen. He opted out of the 2020 season after an eight-sack 2019 campaign.
Once Tryon adds to his toolbox of moves at the point of attack, he could develop into an above-average playmaker thanks to his fluid movement around the pocket.
Dallas Cowboys: S Richie Grant, UCF
Richie Grant likely won't be a first-round pick, but he might end up being one of the best Day 2 selections from the 2021 draft. He's a complete safety who tackles well in the open field with range in coverage.
Over the last three seasons, Grant recorded 16 pass breakups and 10 interceptions. He also turned heads during Senior Bowl week.
"If you wanted to find Grant on the field, all you had to was follow the ball," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah wrote. "He was around it all week long. I was really impressed with his performance in one-on-one drills. Grant proved he can cover in man and play in the deep middle."
With Xavier Woods set to become a free agent, the Dallas Cowboys can pair Grant's high-end coverage ability with safety Donovan Wilson. The latter had two interceptions this past season, but he's a strong force going downhill, recording 71 tackles, two tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks with only four missed tackles.
As a complement to Wilson, Grant can help out cornerbacks over the top, read the quarterback from center field and cover the slot.
Denver Broncos: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
The Denver Broncos cut cornerback A.J. Bouye, who would've sat out the first two games of the 2021 campaign because of a performance-enhancing drug suspension.
This past season, Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemudia played significant snaps on the perimeter. The former is listed at 5'9" and 188 pounds, while the latter took his lumps as a rookie, allowing a 103.2 passer rating in coverage.
With the No. 9 overall pick, the Broncos could take Caleb Farley as the first cornerback off the board. He opted out of the 2020 season, but he fit the profile of a lead boundary defender in 2019, logging 12 pass breakups and four interceptions.
At 6'2" and 207 pounds, Farley plays like a big cornerback in a good way. He's physical, has the ability to reroute receivers and closes windows quickly with his length.
Despite a year out of action, Farley's ball-tracking traits and display of solid man coverage should allow him to start Week 1. He's a top-notch talent who can shut down a receiver on his side of the field.
Detroit Lions: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
With a new regime in place, the Detroit Lions need a cornerstone player to kick off their draft.
Four years ago, the Lions selected linebacker Jarrad Davis in the first round, but he didn't pan out into a high-level defender and lost his starting job this past season. The 26-year-old will become a free agent in March.
The Lions should take another swing at the position and select Penn State's Micah Parsons. He can lock down the middle of their defense for about a decade.
Parsons opted out of the 2020 season but was phenomenal as a sophomore in 2019, logging 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, five pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He isn't an elite cover defender, though his athleticism gives him a chance to make strides in that area.
Moving toward the line of scrimmage, Parsons will provide stout run support and chase down quarterbacks. Don't worry about his limited starting experience; the tape shows an instinctive three-down playmaker ready to start as a rookie.
Green Bay Packers: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
The Green Bay Packers should do their best to help elevate quarterback Aaron Rodgers' supporting cast for the remainder of his career. They can do so in the draft by adding a hyperathletic receiver who's a potential matchup issue because of his speed and versatility.
Kadarius Toney plays wide receiver, but he shakes off defenders like a running back after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced 44 missed tackles over the last two years, which is especially impressive given his limited role across his first three seasons.
Rodgers has a pair of big-bodied targets behind Davante Adams in Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6'4", 206 lbs) and Allen Lazard (6'5", 227 lbs). At 6'0" and 193 pounds, Toney possesses a different skill set. He has the ability to turn short, high-percentage throws into big gains in the open field.
Toney recorded 66 rushing attempts for 580 yards and two touchdowns across his four years at Florida, so defensive coordinators must account for him out of the backfield. He's a spark plug who's dangerous in the slot, on screens and after handoffs.
Houston Texans: Edge Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
The Houston Texans don't have a first- or second-round pick in this year's draft because of their trade with the Miami Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Fortunately, they can still land a high-upside pass-rusher to strengthen their 27th-ranked scoring defense and somewhat compensate for the loss of J.J. Watt, whom they cut earlier this month.
Pittsburgh edge-rusher Rashad Weaver tore his ACL in August 2019, which sidelined him for his entire junior season. However, he bounced back in 2020, logging 34 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks—a stat line similar to his pre-injury numbers in 2018.
At 6'5" and 270 pounds, Weaver isn't a bendy athlete, but he wins at the line of scrimmage with power and length. He uses his hands to shed blocks and forces offensive linemen on to their heels, which puts them at a disadvantage.
Weaver finished his collegiate career with 17 sacks in 34 games. Two years removed from a serious knee injury, he could take off in the pros.
Indianapolis Colts: Edge Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
The Indianapolis Colts could lose two defensive linemen in Justin Houston and Denico Autry in free agency.
Kemoko Turay, Ben Banogu and Tyquan Lewis haven't shown enough to become unquestionable starters for the upcoming season. General manager Chris Ballard should add another pass-rusher to the mix.
With his 6'5", 285-pound frame, Carlos Basham Jr. plays light on his feet. He's nimble, which allows him to dart past bigger offensive linemen and wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage.
Basham will beat offensive tackles with an arm-over technique, but he can also use power to push pass protectors into the quarterback's lap. The Colts could use him on stunts and twists to optimize his athleticism. The Wake Forest product already has the moves to become a lead pass-rusher for a defense in the pros.
Over the last three years, Basham recorded 19.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss, which includes a 10-sack campaign in 2019.
Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Sometimes, dreams come true. In the Jacksonville Jaguars' case, it took a 1-15 season to secure the No. 1 overall pick and a chance to land Trevor Lawrence as their franchise quarterback.
The heightened buzz around Lawrence will bring excitement to Jacksonville. He's an accomplished three-year starter who won a national title, and he ended his collegiate career with 10,098 passing yards, 108 total touchdowns and only 17 interceptions to go with 66.6 percent completion rate.
In terms of desirable traits at the position, Lawrence checks multiple boxes. He moves the pocket, throws on the run, diagnoses coverages before the snap and scans the field when going through his progressions.
On the pro level, Lawrence will learn to take fewer risks with the ball in tight windows, but don't hold his willingness to go for the big play against him. With the No. 1 overall pick, the Jaguars want a franchise-altering quarterback, not a game manager.
Lawrence underwent surgery on a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder in mid-February, but he's expected to recover in time for training camp, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Clemson product should lead Jacksonville back to relevance with his decision-making and arm talent.
Kansas City Chiefs: IOL Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
After quarterback Patrick Mahomes was constantly under duress in Super Bowl LV, the Kansas City Chiefs must address their offensive line this offseason. According to Pro Football Focus, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pressured him on a career-high 55 percent of his dropbacks in that game.
Offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, who didn't play in Super Bowl LV because of injuries, should return healthy for the 2021 campaign. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will also rejoin the Chiefs after he opted out of the 2020 season.
However, starting center Austin Reiter has an expiring contract, and the Chiefs should try to find an upgrade for guard Andrew Wylie, who will become a restricted free agent. Kansas City is $23.1 million over the salary-cap limit.
General manager Brett Veach will likely use at least one of his early-round picks to rebuild the interior of the offensive line. The Chiefs need stability and immediate help in the trenches, which is why they should have their eyes on Creed Humphrey.
According to PFF, Humphrey only allowed 28 quarterback pressures without a sack through his three seasons at Oklahoma. He has the strength to hold up at the point of attack, and his years of experience should allow him to adjust quickly in the NFL.
The two-time Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year could start Week 1 for the Chiefs.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
The Las Vegas Raiders' 30th-ranked scoring defense will undergo schematic changes with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
If you look at the Los Angeles Chargers' draft history with Bradley between the 2017 and 2020 offseasons, take note of their early-round selections on defense: linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (2018 second-rounder), safety Derwin James (2018 first-rounder), defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (2019 first-rounder), safety Nasir Adderley (2019 second-rounder) and linebacker Kenneth Murray (2020 first-rounder).
Bradley seems to favor athletic defenders or prospects who can handle a variety of roles in multiple alignments. Zaven Collins' versatility would allow him to throw curveballs through disguise while addressing some of the unit's weaknesses.
Collins moved around Tulsa's defense and made an impact all over the field, recording 236 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, five interceptions and eight pass breakups through three seasons.
At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Collins has the cover skills to defend running backs and tight ends. He's displayed closing speed near the pocket, which will allow him to generate pressure. Bradley rarely blitzes, but the Tulsa product could cause disruption in the coordinator's hybrid linebacker-defensive end ("Leo") role.
The Raiders could land a total-package defender in Collins at No. 17.
Los Angeles Chargers: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
The Los Angeles Chargers need young, healthy bodies in the trenches to protect quarterback Justin Herbert.
Left tackle Sam Tevi is becoming a free agent in March, while right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed six games because of back and foot injuries in 2020. He's going into his age-32 season with two years left on his contract.
The Chargers should choose an offensive tackle with one of their early picks. They could address a need right away at No. 13.
Rashawn Slater played both right and left tackle at Northwestern, although ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. sees him as a guard in the NFL. If the Chargers agree with Kiper, Slater could fill a void at left guard.
With that said, the 6'3", 305-pounder should also pan out well at his natural position. He opted out of the 2020 campaign, but the former Wildcat has some impressive 2019 tape against 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young.
Jordan Reid of The Draft Network highlighted several plays in which Slater looked terrific in space, moved swiftly across the line to seal blocks and put Young on the ground. The Chargers need that type of player to anchor their offensive line.
Los Angeles Rams: OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
It seems as though the Los Angeles Rams will go all-in on Matthew Stafford, whom they agreed to acquire from the Detroit Lions in exchange for Jared Goff, a third-round pick, a 2022 first-rounder and a 2023 first-rounder.
The front office now needs to make sure he's protected.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth wants to return for his age-40 campaign after missing seven contests because of a knee injury this past season. But because of Whitworth's age, the Rams may need a young tackle to play right away.
Liam Eichenberg started every game for Notre Dame over the last three years and didn't allow a sack during the 2019 season. In Los Angeles, he would stand next in line to start but has the experience to suit up as a rookie if called upon.
Eichenberg isn't a nimble 6'6", 302-pounder, though he makes up for his average athleticism with controlled movement and powerful hands to stymie defenders. On the other hand, the chiseled tackle is fluid when he mirrors edge-rushers in pass protection.
Even if the Rams believe Whitworth will make it through the full 2021 season, they should add a high-floor insurance policy who can take over the position for the next 10 years.
Miami Dolphins: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins shouldn't overthink their No. 3 overall pick. They need upgrades for an offense that ranked 15th in scoring and 22nd in yardage this past season.
To accelerate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's progress, the Dolphins should take one of his top receivers from Alabama.
Tagovailoa and DeVonta Smith played for the Crimson Tide from 2017 through 2019. This past season, the wideout won the Heisman Trophy after hauling in 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Smith, who was listed at 6'1" and 175 pounds in college, beats defenders with crafty route running. He doesn't meet the physical expectations of an elite playmaker, but Dolphins head coach Brian Flores doesn't seem concerned with his stature.
"This guy is a very, very good player," Flores told reporters during Senior Bowl week. "You can nitpick all you want about a guy's size, but good players are good players are good players. We all can see that."
Smith's refined game and past connection with Tagovailoa could help him hit the ground running in Miami.
Minnesota Vikings: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
The Minnesota Vikings have major questions across their defensive line—most of it around edge-rusher Danielle Hunter.
Hunter missed the entire 2020 season because of a herniated disk, which required surgery. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, the Vikings could face a tough decision to pay or trade him this offseason.
In case things go awry with Hunter, general manager Rick Spielman should address the pass rush. The Vikings ranked 28th in sacks (23) and were tied for 29th in quarterback pressures (116) this past season.
Among the top edge-rushing prospects, Kwity Paye had limited sack production at Michigan. Miami's Gregory Rousseau may need time to make an impact after he opted out of the 2020 season. Minnesota should look at an interior pass-rusher instead.
Alabama's Christian Barmore recorded eight sacks this past season, including two during the College Football Playoff. After such a strong finish to his collegiate career, his arrow is pointing up.
For a 6'5", 310-pound defensive tackle, Barmore possesses unique quickness with complementary strength. His short-area burst will catch guards by surprise, leading to constant pressures up the middle. He brings the type of aggressiveness that the Vikings need at the 3-technique spot.
New England Patriots: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
An increasing number of mock drafters have linked the New England Patriots to Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, which would address a need, but he's possibly the fourth- or fifth-best signal-caller in this class.
With a potential run on quarterbacks, blue-chip offensive tackles and three top-notch wideouts, the Patriots could have a chance to move up a few slots for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who would significantly upgrade their offense.
Pitts is the best tight end in the class, although New England could use him as a big-bodied wide receiver. He's a fluid pass-catcher who will bust zone coverages and attack the middle of the field.
At 6'6" and 245 pounds, Pitts will walk into the league as a matchup issue for most defenses. He doesn't have top-end speed, so bigger safeties may have a shot to stay with him in coverage. But his ability to catch contested passes while in traffic should give the Florida product an edge in one-on-one situations.
With Pitts in the fold, whoever starts under center for the Patriots in 2021 would have an electric offensive threat downfield.
New Orleans Saints: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
The New Orleans Saints are currently projected to be a league-high $69.5 million over the salary cap for next season. That will likely prohibit them from re-signing safety Marcus Williams, who recorded 30 pass breakups and 13 interceptions through his four NFL seasons.
This year's safety class doesn't have a star prospects, but the Saints should be elated if Trevon Moehrig is still on the board when they're up at No. 28.
Over the last two seasons, Moehrig had top-level ball production, logging 20 pass breakups and six interceptions in that span. He isn't only a cover safety, though. The 6'2", 202-pounder can deliver a powerful hit on receivers and ball-carriers.
With the ability to read the quarterback 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, line up in the box or match up against slot receivers, Moehrig's versatility should grab the Saints' attention on Day 1 of the draft.
New York Giants: Edge Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who led the New York Giants with 11.5 sacks this past season, is about to head into free agency. Even if the Giants re-sign him, they need more defensive help on the edge, as Kyler Fackrell led their outside linebackers with four sacks.
Miami's Gregory Rousseau had an impressive 15.5-sack redshirt freshman campaign that should entice NFL teams in need of a lead edge-rusher. The one-year starter has a high ceiling, but he needs time to sharpen his technique while scratching the surface of his full potential.
At 6'7" and 265 pounds, Rousseau has a lean frame. His pad level may become an issue if he allows 300-pound offensive linemen to use leverage with a low center of gravity. On the flip side, the Miami product has the arm length to battle with offensive tackles and the quickness to beat guards on stunts.
If Rousseau cuts down on his choppy steps while in pursuit of quarterbacks and works on his jump off the line of scrimmage, he'll reach double-digit sacks in the NFL. Right now, the Giants would acquire a high-potential, pass-rushing mold of clay who has the physical attributes to win battles on the edge.
New York Jets: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
The New York Jets haven't publicly made a decision on Sam Darnold's future. The 23-year-old quarterback has had a rocky three-year start to his NFL career, playing under two coaching regimes on sub-.500 teams.
With yet another coaching staff in place, Darnold may not get another opportunity. The Jets can start fresh and pick a new potential face of the franchise at No. 2.
Other than Trevor Lawrence, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields seems most equipped to fix the current situation in New York.
Fields would leave a powerhouse collegiate program for New York's big market, so he should be able to handle the pressure of leading a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since the 2010 season. The 2019 Heisman finalist has a solid body of work as a productive starter over the last two years, throwing for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Fields has a tendency to hold onto the ball and rely on his athleticism to escape pressure and make last-minute throws, but that's one of the few correctable knocks against him. He'll learn to avoid unnecessary hits with bigger and fast defenders around the pocket.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas can wipe the slate clean at quarterback, starting fresh with a prospect who has enormous upside and impressive passing numbers against top-notch competition in college.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
The Philadelphia Eagles' passing attack will look completely different in 2021 than it did this past season.
The Eagles have already agreed to a trade that will send quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. They released wide receiver DeSean Jackson as a cap casualty, and Alshon Jeffery isn't far behind in that regard, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
If quarterback Jalen Hurts starts under center, he'll need a lead receiver. 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor had a few flashes in an injury-riddled rookie campaign, but he caught only 31 passes for 396 yards and a touchdown.
At 6'1" and 200 pounds, Ja'Marr Chase has a compact frame that's built to battle for contested catches. He also uses his long speed to beat defenders 20 or more yards downfield.
Hurts could rack up big numbers with well-placed throws to the LSU product outside the numbers. The talented wideout has a knack for reeling in tight-window passes close to the sideline.
When Chase hauled in 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019, he provided a strong sample of his ability as a go-to receiver.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
The Pittsburgh Steelers will head into the offseason with multiple question marks across their offensive line. Since they're currently projected to be $19.1 million over the salary cap, general manager Kevin Colbert may fill those holes with players already on the roster or draft picks.
As left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler, who played left guard this past season, prepare for free agency, the Steelers should have their eyes on Alijah Vera-Tucker.
At USC, Vera-Tucker played both guard spots and left tackle. Most recently, he lined up on the outside and fared well as a pass protector in addition to his solid blocking on run downs.
The Steelers could add Vera-Tucker to the roster and see where he fits before they pigeonholed him into a specific spot, though his experience would likely lead to a starting role at guard.
While filling different roles across USC's offensive line, Vera-Tucker displayed a unique combination of foot quickness and strength. The Steelers need those two qualities to open up running lanes for a ground attack that accumulated the fewest yards in the league this past season.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The San Francisco 49ers will need to revamp their cornerback group with Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and Jason Verrett all heading into free agency.
Sherman doesn't expect to re-sign with the 49ers. Witherspoon went through stretches of ups and downs with production and injuries, so he isn't a reliable long-term option. Although Verrett played well this past season, logging seven pass breakups and two interceptions, the 29-year-old has a long history of injuries.
Patrick Surtain II would be an ideal fit at No. 12.
Surtain doesn't have standout coverage numbers, logging four interceptions and 24 pass breakups through three seasons, but he has the length and the size to blanket receivers. At 6'2" and 202 pounds, the physical cornerback isn't shy about helping out in run support, which is an added plus.
With average foot speed, Surtain needs to stay on top of routes, but he's usually able to make adjustments by using his anticipation to mirror receivers while in coverage.
Seattle Seahawks: IOL Deonte Brown, Alabama
Even if they don't trade quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks will undergo schematic and philosophical changes on offense throughout the offseason, and it likely starts in the trenches.
After the Seahawks' aerial attack went stale in the second half of the 2020 campaign, they fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and hired former Los Angeles Rams passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron. Head coach Pete Carroll wants a stronger commitment to the ground game.
Based on Carroll's objective, expect Seattle to address its offensive line, which could help make Wilson happy.
Alabama's Deonte Brown could replace guard Mike Iupati, who's retiring after 11 NFL seasons. He has experience at both guard spots, so the Seahawks can shift him to either side if necessary.
Beyond his obvious strength, the 6'4", 350-pounder will finish off defenders to eliminate high-motor effort sacks. He's a squatty interior lineman who plays with a low center of gravity, which makes it difficult to knock him off balance.
At his size, Brown won't have many second-level blocks, but he'll win battles at the line of scrimmage to open up lanes for ball-carriers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Joseph Ossai, Texas
Regardless of what happens with impending free-agent outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has to consider a new addition for the pass rush.
Barrett wants to "break the bank" in free agency (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk), and 32-year-old Jason Pierre-Paul is heading into a contract year. To extend the life of a top-10 defense, the Bucs should select Joseph Ossai with one of their top two picks.
Ossai has experience in an off-ball linebacker role and on the edge. At Texas, he recorded 30 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, two interceptions and three pass breakups.
In 2020, Ossai moved to the outside and focused on rushing the passer. He had a lot of success because of his loose hips, attack-mode mentality and his reach. In close proximity, the long-limbed defender can lasso a ball-carrier or quarterback to the ground if he's unable to secure a tackle with a good angle on his target.
Ossai will need to develop his pass-rushing move set and counters, but he has the natural ability to pin his ears back and collapse the pocket.
Tennessee Titans: Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
According to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider, Jadeveon Clowney would consider re-signing with the Titans. He finished with zero sacks through eight games before a knee injury derailed his season.
Even if he returns to the fold, Tennessee should add another edge-rusher. The three-time Pro Bowler has only three sacks and 41 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons.
At Georgia, Azeez Ojulari showed quickness and a fluid bend when he hit the corner of the pocket. Over his last two seasons, the 6'3", 240-pounder logged 15 sacks.
Ojulari's size may limit him on run downs early in his career, but in one-on-one situations, he can beat offensive linemen with a combination of speed, fluid body movement and the use of his strong hands.
Washington Football Team: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Although the Washington Football Team must sort out their quarterback situation, they also need a playmaker to complement wideout Terry McLaurin on the perimeter. The offense ranked 31st in yards gained per play (4.8) in 2020.
Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle can haul in deep passes, extend plays after the catch and put some fear in defensive backs because of his speed. He's a big-play receiver who averaged 18.9 yards per catch through three collegiate seasons.
Waddle didn't see a lot of targets at Alabama while competing for looks with the likes of Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith—two first-round draft picks and the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner. He missed significant time with a broken ankle this past season. However, he posted gaudy numbers before the injury, logging at least 120 receiving yards in each of his first four games of the 2020 campaign.
Waddle has the traits to add a significant spark to Washington's aerial attack.