2021 NFL Draft: Buying or Selling the Latest Mock Draft Trends

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2021

2021 NFL Draft: Buying or Selling the Latest Mock Draft Trends

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    NFL teams have now gathered pertinent information on prospects, from medicals and pro day results to a getting a feel for their demeanor during virtual meetings. Less than two weeks before the draft, we'll see some movement in mock projections. 

    At this point, scouts, coaches and general managers may need to iron out some wrinkles on the big board, but most teams have an idea of who's on the radar for Day 1 with multiple contingency plans in place.

    A well-run organization keeps its plans sealed, so we should be wary of smokescreens and rumors. With that said, some of the most renowned analysts hear the buzz and concerns about certain players, which is often reflected in their predictions.

    Sometimes, the trends foreshadow what's to come when it's time for teams to make decisions.

    While examining the most recent mocks from eight of the top draft experts, we're going to buy or sell six consensus opinions. At least five analysts have agreed on each projection below.

49ers Will Select QB Mac Jones with No. 3 Overall Pick

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    Alabama quarterback Mac Jones
    Alabama quarterback Mac JonesAssociated Press

    Mocks from:

    Assuming Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and BYU's Zach Wilson go No. 1 and No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, respectively, the San Francisco 49ers will choose Alabama's Mac Jones, Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance.

    Among the analysts, the consensus leans toward Jones. According to The Athletic's Mike Sando, one general manager agrees with them. 

    "I'm confident Mac Jones is Kyle [Shanahan]'s guy,” said the unnamed front-office executive.

    Appearing on ESPN's Get Up!, Kiper explained his prediction at No. 3 (h/t 49ers Webzone).

    "I think the decision has already been made, and I think that cerebral approach, the incredible accuracy is the reason why Mac Jones makes sense to the 49ers," Kiper said. 

    In 2020, his only season as a full-time starter, Jones completed 77.4 percent of his passes, racking up 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with only four interceptions. 

    We shouldn't close the book on the 49ers' pick yet though. According to NBC Sports' Matt Maiocco, Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello attended Fields' second pro day Wednesday, and they'll take another look at Lance on April 19. San Francisco can implement its offensive staples in both workouts, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. 

    Despite Kiper's prediction, he ranked Fields ahead of Jones and Lance as overall prospects. McShay listed Jones third among the three. Neither analyst believes the Alabama prospect is the best overall option, but rather, the ideal fit for Shanahan. 

    Shanahan has a history with less athletic quarterbacks, such as Matt Schaub, Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan, but with the No. 3 overall pick, the 49ers should select the player with the highest ceiling. 

    If that's the case, Jones isn't the best choice. As a starter, Fields completed at least 67.2 percent of his passes while rushing for 867 yards and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He has the most playing experience among the three signal-callers connected to the 49ers.

    Look past the 49ers-Jones smokescreen. Fields has the accurate arm and athleticism to become a special player at the next level.

    Verdict: Sell

OT Penei Sewell Falls Outside the Top 5

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    Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell
    Oregon offensive tackle Penei SewellAssociated Press

    Mock from:

    • The Athletic's Dane Brugler
    • CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso
    • Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson
    • NFL.com's Peter Schrager and Daniel Jeremiah
    • ESPN's Todd McShay

    Early in the draft evaluation process, Oregon's Penei Sewell seemed like a good fit for the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Joe Burrow needs stronger pass protection after spending this past season with an average of 2.3 seconds in a clean pocket before it collapsed.

    During free agency, the Bengals signed offensive tackle Riley Reiff, who had a solid 2020 campaign with the Minnesota Vikings but lost his roster spot. He allowed just one sack in 1,003 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

    Reiff lined up at right tackle through the 2016 term with the Detroit Lions, and now he could man that spot to bookend the Bengals offensive line opposite 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams. 

    The Bengals don't have a pressing need at tackle, though they can upgrade with Sewell. However, with the Oregon product's experience on the left side, the coaching staff would have to move him to the other end of the line or shift Williams, which isn't an ideal approach. 

    Instead, the Bengals can reunite wideout Ja'Marr Chase with Burrow, his former LSU teammate. Cincinnati ran 76 percent of its offensive plays out of three-wide receiver sets in 2020, per Sharp Football Stats, which underlines the importance of their third wideout.

    With the top three draft spots going to quarterbacks and the Atlanta Falcons set at tackle with one Pro Bowler and a recent first-rounder at the position, Sewell could easily fall outside the top five if the Bengals feel confident in Reiff.

    The 2021 class has a strong group of tackles, which gives the Bengals the flexibility to reignite a flame between their quarterback and his best collegiate receiver. After that, they can still find Reiff's eventual successor in the second round.

    Verdict: Buy

CB Patrick Surtain II Will Be the First Defensive Player off the Board

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    Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II
    Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain IIAssociated Press

    Mock from:

    • The Athletic's Dane Brugler
    • The Draft Network's Trevor Sikkema
    • Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson
    • NFL.com's Peter Schrager
    • ESPN's Todd McShay 

    After an impressive pro day, South Carolina's Jaycee Horn generated some buzz and moved into the CB1 spot in some mock drafts—CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso posted one of them.

    "Given the explosiveness of his workout, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Horn goes ahead of Surtain—who had a fine workout too but isn't as twitchy on film," Trapasso wrote.

    Although Horn may have raised his draft stock, Alabama's Patrick Surtain II had a more consistent showing at the collegiate level. He's a well-rounded technically sound cover man who shows fluid footwork while defending a receiver downfield and solid tackling when going downhill.

    At 6'2", 208 pounds, Surtain matches up with bigger receivers, but his ability to sniff out a route with anticipation will allow him to keep pace with quicker wideouts as well.

    Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons has a shot to lead the defensive prospects, but he's somewhat of a mystery in terms of schematic fit. He hasn't shown much consistency in his ability to cover the middle of the field. Because of his pass-rushing ability, teams should experiment with his role to fully unlock his potential.

    Michigan's Kwity Paye has modest sack numbers (11.5) through four collegiate terms. Although he's solid, with the ability to line up in different spots, his average showing as a pass-rusher hurts his draft value.

    All eight draft analysts predict the Dallas Cowboys will use their first pick on a defensive prospect, with Surtain as the most popular selection. McShay slotted the Alabama product to the Carolina Panthers at No. 8. 

    Verdict: Buy

Raiders Will Select Top Defensive Player over a Tackle at No. 17

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    Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
    Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-KoramoahAssociated Press

    Mock from:

    • CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso
    • The Draft Network's Trevor Sikkema
    • Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson
    • NFL.com's Peter Schrager and Daniel Jeremiah
    • ESPN's Todd McShay 

    With a high-quality incoming class of offensive tackles, six analysts predict the Las Vegas Raiders will take the best defensive player available rather than address a need along the offensive line.

    Vegas traded right tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots back in March. In two seasons with the Raiders, he missed half of the games, so they're accustomed to playing without him. Denzelle Good, Brandon Parker and Sam Young filled in at the position this past season.

    However, Young is a free agent. Good will compete for a starting spot at guard following Gabe Jackson's being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. And if he beats out 2020 fourth-rounder John Simpson, Brandon Parker could compete for the first-string position at right tackle.

    This past season, Parker played well as a swing tackle in spot duty, but the third-year pro has started in just seven games since his rough debut season in which he gave up 10 sacks, per Pro Football Focus.

    During free agency, the Raiders added an influx of talent along the defensive line, signing Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson and Solomon Thomas. That's a crowded group even after waiving Maurice Hurst and Arden Key.

    With Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski and Nicholas Morrow at linebacker, the Raiders don't have a need there  either. 

    If Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley falls, he's a schematic fit in Gus Bradley's Cover 3 system, but that would indicate a potential move for Damon Arnette—perhaps a transition from the boundary to the slot over Amik Robertson. That's not an ideal scenario for a pair of second-year players.

    After three non-playoff seasons under head coach Jon Gruden, the Raiders should target an immediate-impact player on Day 1. In a division with edge-rushers Joey Bosa, Frank Clark, Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, Vegas should take one of the top tackles, especially if Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw or Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins is on the board.

    As Kiper suggests, USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker, who can play guard or tackle, would also make sense at No. 17. He could protect quarterback Derek Carr or open lanes for Gruden's run-heavy attack. Expect the Raiders' lead skipper to prioritize a glaring need for his offense.

    Verdict: Sell

Edge Gregory Rousseau Isn't a 1st-Round Pick

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    Miami edge-rusher Gregory Rousseau
    Miami edge-rusher Gregory RousseauAssociated Press

    Mock from:

    • The Athletic's Dane Brugler
    • CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso
    • The Draft Network's Trevor Sikkema
    • Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson
    • ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

    The draft analysts didn't buy into Gregory Rousseau's 2019 sack numbers: Five of them believe the Miami product slips to the second round, and Trapasso dropped him to the Baltimore Ravens with the 58th overall pick. 

    After logging 15.5 sacks during his redshirt freshman campaign, Rousseau opted out of the 2020 term. He had a disappointing pro day, logging a 4.69-second 40-yard dash and only 21 reps on the bench press.

    On top of his unimpressive show of speed and strength, Draft Network's Ryan Fowler put the 6'7", 266-pounder's lack of explosiveness into perspective.

    "Additionally, his 30-inch vert places him in the 16th percentile of all defensive ends since the turn of the century," Fowler wrote. "For context, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick recorded a 30.5-inch vert at his Pro Day. Yeah … it wasn't good."

    Rousseau's workout underscores concerns about his ability to win on the edge. Although he ranked second in sacks across the nation in 2019, the long-striding edge-rusher won most of his battles against slower interior offensive linemen.

    On the pro level, Rousseau's defensive coordinator will have to use him in stunts and sub-packages to unleash him as a pass-rusher. He hasn't shown a quick first step off the line of scrimmage, the explosiveness or bend to consistently beat tackles around the corner. 

    Rousseau could carve out a decent role on the defensive line, but he comes into the league with significant question marks.

    Verdict: Buy

WR Elijah Moore Is a 1st-Round Pick

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    Ole Miss wideout Elijah Moore
    Ole Miss wideout Elijah MooreRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Mock from:

    • The Athletic's Dane Brugler
    • CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso
    • Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson
    • ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay
    • NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah

    As offensive coordinators look to spread defenses thin, speedy slot wideouts take on bigger roles.

    A top talent evaluator shared his thoughts with NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and believes this year's receiver class features several high-end pass-catching playmakers who can line up on the inside.

    "'This draft is unprecedented in its sheer number of really good slot WRs.' Last year's WR class was deep, but more outside guys. This year, it's top inside guys," Rapoport tweeted.

    Among slot receivers, Ole Miss' Elijah Moore has gained traction. Six analysts paired him with a team on the back end of the first round. He had a breakout junior campaign, accumulating 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Late in the first round, teams on the lookout for a slot pass-catcher may initially target Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, a bigger player at the position who's 6'0", 190 pounds. At 5'7", 181 pounds, Purdue's Rondale Moore will certainly play the same role on the pro level. Kadarius Toney should draw early interest at that spot as well. 

    Moore has some competition for a Day 1 draft slot among inside receivers. With smaller wideouts set to face challenges against press coverage, we may not see many of them come off the board in the first round.

    Alabama's Jaylen Waddle weighed in at 5'10", 180 pounds, but he's a proven big-play receiver who averaged 18.9 yards per catch with the ability to line up on the outside and in the slot. Moore doesn't have that level of collegiate production, which likely drops him to the second round.

    Even though Monson and Jeremiah project Moore to go in the first round, they described him as a "luxury pick" for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the reigning champions decide to take a practical approach, the front office may add youth on the edge with Jason Pierre-Paul turning 32 this past January.

    Verdict: Sell

    Player height and weight measurements courtesy of NFL.com.