2021 NFL Mock Draft Following Free Agency: Mac Jones To 49ers At No. 3

2021 NFL Mock Draft Following Free Agency: Mac Jones To 49ers At No. 3 article feature image
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones.

Now that April is almost here, and we’ve had two big trades involving first round picks — in sum, the 49ers move up to No. 3, Dolphins move down to No. 6 and Eagles down to No. 12 — I am updating my 2021 NFL mock draft.

Now that we’ve had free agency, trades and many pro days, this updated mock looks significantly different from its predecessors.

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As we move into April and have more information on players and teams, I will make significant changes to future versions.

In this present mock, I’m concerned solely with prediction, not prescription. My goal is for you to be able to use this mock as a guide for betting draft props.

Last year, I was 124-88-1 (+26.2 units) betting the NFL draft and the No. 6 mocker in the FantasyPros accuracy contest. In 2019, I was 54-29 (+17.7 units) on the draft and was also a top-20 mocker in the FantasyPros accuracy contest and Mock Draft Database contest.

While I rely on my own research, I also take a “wisdom of the crowds” approach by surveying an index of mock drafts. I find that these drafts — created by experts with established records of success — collectively give me a good sense of the realistic range of outcomes for what we might see with any given player or pick.

With that in mind, here’s how I see Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft unfolding.

2021 NFL Mock Draft

1. Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Height
6’6”
Weight
220 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1

I have already bet on Lawrence to be the No. 1 overall pick and am yet to see a mock draft that doesn’t have him slotted to the Jags at the top of the board.

No surprise here.

2. Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, Brigham Young

Height
6’3”
Weight
210 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1

The Jets seem very likely to put an end to the Sam Darnold experiment by selecting a quarterback at No. 2. I imagine the NFL will prefer Wilson to Justin Fields because of his superior arm strength, passing skill, pocket presence and improvisational ability.

I am betting on Wilson to be the No. 2 pick.

3. 49ers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama*

Height
6’3”
Weight
214 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
3-4
Projected Round
1

I can’t believe I have Jones this high in the draft, but life moves quickly.

In the wake of San Francisco’s big trade for the No. 3 pick, most sharp mock drafters assumed the 49ers were moving up for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

That’s the assumption I immediately made — because Fields, to my untrained eye, is a top-three quarterback in this class.

Why wouldn’t 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan want to draft a newer, perhaps better version of Robert Griffin III, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year under Shanahan’s guidance in 2012?

But, alas, it seems that Shanahan would rather draft a newer version of Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins and Matt Schaub — a newer version of Jimmy Garoppolo.

When Chris Simms tweeted that he thought the 49ers were trading up for Jones …

it was easy enough to dismiss the idea, because Simms tweets a lot of random stuff that makes absolutely no sense.

Yeah, Chris, of course we’ve eaten chocolate-covered pretzels. We’re not uncivilized animals.

But then Daniel Jeremiah repeated that sentiment on multiple shows in the following days: The Move the Sticks PodcastThe Rich Eisen Show and The Athletic NFL Show. It’s as if Jeremiah was put on this earth to do one thing — tell anyone who will listen that the 49ers are taking Jones No. 3.

Maybe the 49ers are sending out fake signals regarding Jones in order to prevent teams from jumping over them … but I doubt it.

Jeremiah is a plugged-in analyst. When it comes to NFL draft rumors, if he says it, there’s a pretty decent chance it’s true.

Again, this pick should be Fields, but right now I expect it to be Jones. Because I’m pulled in different directions, I’m not betting on it right now, but I might return to props for Jones as we get closer to the draft.

Looking at the quarterback prospects from Shanahan’s perspective, I can understand why he’d like Jones.

Shanahan has a type, and Jones fits the mold.

After redshirting in 2017 and backing up both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts in 2018, Jones served as the No. 2 quarterback in 2019 until Tagovailoa’s hip injury thrust him into the full-time starting role.

In his four 2019 starts, Jones looked great throwing the ball.

  • Arkansas: 18-of-22 passing, 235 yards, three touchdowns
  • Western Carolina: 7-of-11 passing, 275 yards, three touchdowns
  • Auburn: 26-of-39 passing, 335 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions
  • Michigan: 16-of-25 passing, 327 yards, three touchdowns

And then in 2020 he looked like the best quarterback in the nation, leading the Power 5 with a 12.8 AY/A as he has completed 77.4% of his passes for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns to just four interceptions in 13 games.

There are some drawbacks with Jones: He’s older, he’s relatively small, he has barely more than a year of starting experience, he wasn’t an elite recruit, he’s a net negative as a runner and he probably has below-average arm talent.

In other words, he is almost certainly not worth what the 49ers traded away.

Even so, he is a cerebral player and anticipatory passer who should get a shot to be an NFL starter. It looks like the 49ers will give him that shot.

Previous pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
*Pick via Texans & Dolphins

4. Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Height
6’6”
Weight
246 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

Many mockers are projecting a quarterback to the Falcons at No. 4, but I don’t see that happening — starter Matt Ryan has been as steady and productive as almost any passer in the league for the past half decade. But I could see Pitts going in this spot.

After slotting him in at No. 13 in earlier versions of the mock, I have finally capitulated. With the enthusiasm surrounding Pitts, he seems unlikely to fall outside the top 10, and the Falcons could certainly use him.

The Falcons already have a solid tight end in Hayden Hurst, but they lack a good No. 2 tight end as well as an established No. 3 wide receiver. New head coach Arthur Smith relied heavily on two-tight end sets as the Titans offensive coordinator over the past two years, and the addition of Pitts would allow Smith to use his preferred base set.

ncaa-college football-week 5-betting-odds-pick-prediction-florida gators-south carolina-gamecocks-kyle pitts
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Pitts

With wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on the perimeter and Hurst inline as the Y tight end, Pitts could be the ultimate mismatch weapon in Atlanta, playing a hybrid role as a joker tight end and big-bodied slot receiver.

With that pass-catching quartet, the Falcons offense could be incredibly dynamic.

Pitts won the 2020 John Mackey Award as the No. 1 tight end in college football and was an easy unanimous All-American selection thanks to his unreal 43-770-12 receiving in just eight games. He is worthy of a top-10 pick.

Previous pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

5. Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Height
6’6”
Weight
325 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Redshirt Sophomore
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

The Bengals desperately need help on the offensive line, and Sewell is the best available offensive lineman. He might even be the best overall player in the class.

Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, but in 2019 he was a unanimous All-American selection and the winner of the Outland Trophy for his outstanding line play.

Sewell seems like a lock to be the first offensive lineman selected.

Previous pick: Rashawn Slate, OT, Northwestern

6. Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU*

Height
6’1”
Weight
200 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Redshirt Sophomore
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

If the Dolphins had stayed at No. 3, there was a decent chance they would have taken Chase anyway, so they did very well to trade down and pick up a future first-rounder in the process.

I have a bet on Chase to be the No. 1 wide receiver selected.

In drafting Chase and playing him alongside DeVante Parker and Will Fuller V, the Dolphins will have one of the best — or at least most intriguing — receiver trios in the league.

A bona fide star, Chase opted out of the 2020 season, but in 2019 he — not Justin Jefferson — was the No. 1 receiver on the title-winning Tigers with a nation-high 1,780 yards and 21 touchdowns.

*Pick via Eagles

7. Lions: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Height
6’1”
Weight
175 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Senior
Recruit. Stars
3-4
Projected Round
1

Before the trade for presumptive starter Jared Goff, I had the Lions selecting a quarterback at No. 7, but now it probably makes more sense for them to address another position, such as wide receiver, where they are perilously thin at the moment.

Starters Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones as well as second-stringers Mohamed Sanu and Jamal Agnew departed via free agency. The Lions might draft multiple receivers with top-100 picks this year.

I have my doubts about Smith because of his age and size, but he outright dominated in 2020 with 117-1,856-23 receiving as the winner of the Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award. And it’s not as if he’s a one-year wonder: In 2019, he was also the No. 1 receiver for Alabama — ahead of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs — with 68-1,256-14 receiving.

8. Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Height
6’3”
Weight
228 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1

The Panthers stay put and get their guy.

Teddy Bridgewater was adequate for the Panthers in 2020, but head coach Matt Rhule has refused to endorse Bridgewater as his starter for 2021. It would be a surprise if the Panthers didn’t take a quarterback in Round 1.

Even with his rawness, Fields would likely be an immediate upgrade over Bridgewater. An accomplished dual-threat quarterback, Fields was 5,373-63-9 passing with a 68.4% completion rate in 22 starts for the Buckeyes.

9. Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Height
6’3”
Weight
245 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Redshirt Sophomore
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1

In earlier versions of the mock I had the Broncos going with Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, but after his recent back surgery and the addition of free agent corners Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, the Broncos could look to improve their defense by addressing another position.

Off-ball linebacker makes sense, and Parsons fits the draft range given his outstanding pro day.

Although he opted out of the 2020 season, Parson was a consensus All-American selection as a true sophomore in 2019 and is almost certain to be the first off-ball linebacker drafted.

Previous pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

10. Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Height
6’2”
Weight
202 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1

It’s hard to know what the Cowboys will do — especially since they have so many needs on defense — but going with the No. 1 cornerback in the class makes sense here, especially since they lost corner Chidobe Awuzie via free agency.

With his elite combination of size and athleticism …

… Surtain has the potential to match up with almost any NFL receiver as a shutdown corner. A unanimous All-American defender and three-year SEC starter, Surtain should be an immediate NFL starter.

Previous pick: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

11. Giants: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

Height
6’4”
Weight
272 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Senior
Recruit. Stars
3-4
Projected Round
1

After the Giants released Golden Tate, I thought I might give them a wide receiver at No. 11 — but then they signed Kenny Golladay, so I’m looking at the defensive side of the ball.

The Giants are strong on the interior of their defensive line, but they have no one of note to rush the passer off the edge. With Paye, the Giants get arguably the top edge defender in the class.

Previous pick: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)

12. Eagles: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama*

Height
5’10”
Weight
182 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

The Eagles need pass-catching help. Veterans Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson were both released this offseason, and tight end Zach Ertz could be traded before the season starts.

On top of that, 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor and 2019 second-rounder J.J. Arcega-Whiteside have both underwhelmed in their brief NFL careers.

Enter Waddle.

The Eagles could have stayed at No. 6 and drafted a receiver — maybe Waddle — but in trading down they picked up a future first-rounder and still get an impact receiver.

That Waddle has familiarity with quarterback Jalen Hurts from their time together at Alabama is just an added bonus.

UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images. Pictured: Jaylen Waddle.

Waddle missed most of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, but before his injury,  he — and not the Heisman-winning Devonta Smith — was the playmaking No. 1 receiver at Alabama.

  • Jaylen Waddle (Weeks 1-4): 25-557-4 receiving | 3-12-0 rushing
  • DeVonta Smith (Weeks 1-4): 38-483-4 receiving | 2-2-1 rushing

Waddle is raw and relatively unproven, but I’m yet to see him fall outside the top 20 of any mock.

Previous pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
*Pick via 49ers & Dolphins

13. Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Height
6’3”
Weight
305 lbs.
2021 Age
NA
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1

Left tackle Sam Tevi signed with the Colts in free agency, left guard Forrest Lamp is still unsigned, center Mike Pouncey retired, right guard Trai Turner was released to create cap space and right tackle Bryan Bulaga is 32 years old.

Some of these players have been replaced via free agency, but the Chargers still need help on the offensive line, and Slater is arguably the best tackle after Sewell.

Slater opted out of the 2020 season, but he’s a three-year starter with experience on both sides of the line, the flexibility to move into the interior if needed and the versatility to play in most schemes. He provides great value for the Chargers at No. 13.

Previous pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

14. Vikings: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)

Height
6’7”
Weight
265 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Double Redshirt Freshman
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1

The Vikings have needs all over the roster, especially on the defensive line. If you give defense-focused head coach Mike Zimmer an excuse to draft a big-bodied trench filler, that’s probably what he’ll do, and with Rousseau the Vikings get an upside prospect with All-Pro potential.

Rousseau opted out of 2020 and redshirted most of 2018 with injury, but in 2019 he was the best edge defender in the ACC with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.

Previous pick: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL)

15. Patriots: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Height
6’3”
Weight
221 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Double Redshirt Freshman
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1

It’s not lightly that I mock Lance to the Patriots at No. 15. Only three times in NFL history have we seen five or more quarterbacks go in Round 1.

  • 1983: John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien, Dan Marino
  • 1999: Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown
  • 2018: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson

This is the type of thing that tends to happen only once every 15-20 years — and it just happened a few years ago. To have this many quarterbacks go at the top of the draft, you must have a great class of passers as well as a great need at the position in the league.

I think we have both this year.

Quarterback Cam Newton is returning to the Patriots for a second season, but his contract is hardly prohibitive.

Newton is getting backup/stopgap money. Last year, the Patriots passed for just 3,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Newton seems highly unlikely to be the long-term starter for the Pats.

Luckily, Lance falls to the Pats at No. 15. He’s young, but he also has immense upside, which he amply demonstrated at his pro day.

Lance redshirted in 2018 and opted out of 2020, so he has just one season of college football to his name — but it was a fantastic season. In 2019, he won the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding FCS player in the nation, and he led the Bison to a record-setting 16-0 season with 2,786-28-0 passing on a 66.9% completion rate and 169-1,100-14 rushing.

16. Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Height
6’1”
Weight
200 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

The Cardinals are thin at cornerback after parting ways with franchise stalwart Patrick Peterson this offseason. In Horn, they get an immediate starter.

At his pro day, Horn flashed Jalen Ramsey-esque athleticism, and he stacks up favorably with Surtain.

A three-year SEC starter, Horn has experience playing on the perimeter and in the slot, and he has the size and physicality to press NFL receivers. He might have the skill set to be an eventual shadow corner. He’s a great pick at No. 16.

Previous pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

17. Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC

Height
6’4”
Weight
315 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

The Raiders traded away right tackle Trent Brown, right guard Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson. They unquestionably need help on the offensive line, and Vera-Tucker could be an immediate starter.

Blessed with good athleticism and ability as a pass and run blocker, Vera-Tucker has positional flexibility thanks to his time starting as a left guard (2019) and left tackle (2020). If selected as a guard, Vera-Tucker could be the first interior offensive lineman off the board, but I expect he’ll get a shot in the NFL to show what he can do on the perimeter.

With the Raiders, he could be a strong bookend tackle opposite blindside protector Kolton Miller.

Previous pick: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

18. Dolphins: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

Height
6’2”
Weight
215 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
3-4
Projected Round
1

The Dolphins defense was much improved in 2020, led mainly by the secondary and line, but the linebacking unit is still lacking in playmakers. Routinely, the Dolphins linebackers were exploited in both run and pass defense.

Owusu-Koramoah will be an immediate upgrade. With this pick, the Dolphins get a unanimous All-American and the 2020 Butkus Award winner to man the middle of the defense. Owusu-Koramoah will likely need to add more muscle in the NFL, but he has great instincts and looks like a Week 1 starter.

Previous pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

19. Football Team: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Height
6’5”
Weight
314 lbs.
2021 Age
NA
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
2-3
Projected Round
1

In an ideal world, Washington would get a quarterback in Round 1 and use Ryan Fitzpatrick as a one-year mentor and bridge starter, but I doubt the Football Team will be able to draft one of the five high-end quarterback prospects without a costly trade. But I still expect Washington to address the offense in Round 1, and offensive line stands out.

At left tackle, the Football Team right now has some combination of Geron Christian and Cornelius Lucas. Neither is very good, Christian is returning from a season-ending knee injury, Lucas is a journeyman about to turn 30 years old and both are slated to be free agents after the 2021 season.

Darrisaw would be an upgrade on both Christian and Lucas.

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An overlooked recruit who received just one offer from an FBS school, Darrisaw prepped for a year at Fork Union Military Academy before enrolling at Virginia Tech, where he quickly won the starting left tackle job. A three-year starter, Darrisaw has improved each season.

He has the size, length and skill set to be an immediate NFL starter.

Previous pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

20. Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

Height
6’6”
Weight
310 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Redshirt Senior
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1

The Bears need help on the offensive line: Left tackle Charles Leno is entering the final year of his contract, right tackle Bobby Massie was released in early March, right guard Germain Ifedi is on a one-year deal and left guard James Daniels is coming of injured reserve and also entering his final year under contract.

Jenkins gives the Bears an experienced player with 35 career starts and the versatility to play both tackle spots or kick inside to guard.

Previous pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

21. Colts: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

Height
6’5”
Weight
320 lbs.
2021 Age
21
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
3-4
Projected Round
1

The Colts just traded for quarterback Carson Wentz, but they don’t have his blindside protector in place, as longtime franchise left tackle Anthony Castonzo has retired after a 10-year career.

Mayfield could be Castonzo’s long-term replacement.

At Michigan, Mayfield was an upside mauler at right tackle, but he’s not just a run-game grinder. He might start in the NFL on the right side — or maybe even one of the guard spots — but his youth, size and overall talent suggest that Mayfield has the long-term potential to be a franchise left tackle.

Previous pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC

22. Titans: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL)

Height
6’5”
Weight
266 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1

The Titans defense last year was No. 31 in the league with a 17.6% pressure rate, and they need bodies at pass rusher, especially since Jadeveon Clowney and Harold Landry are respectively entering free agency and a contract year.

A five-star recruit, Phillips did little at UCLA for his first two seasons of college. But after transferring to Miami and sitting out a season per NCAA rules, he dominated in 2020 with a team-high eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.

Previous pick: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

23. Jets: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama*

Height
6’2”
Weight
230 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Senior
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1-2

This pick is less about what the Jets need and more about getting Harris into Round 1 in a spot that is at least possible.

As simplistic as this sounds, the key to an accurate mock is to get as many likely Day 1 picks as possible into the draft — and yet way too many mockers seem not to get that basic concept.

Instead, they try way too hard to match players with teams based on positional need, scheme fit and personal preferences, and in so doing — in attempting to get everything perfect and just to their liking — they create mocks that are utterly unrealistic.

I think a running back should almost never be selected on Day 1, but Harris is present in 65% of indexed mocks, so I need to get him into Round 1 somehow.

nfl mock draft-picks-first-round-betting-freedman-february-26-2021
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Najee Harris.

It’s not unthinkable for the Jets to draft Harris. Right now, they have Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson under contract. I doubt very much that one of those players will lead the Jets in rushing this year.

With Harris, the Jets would have a bona fide big-bodied lead back with pass-game ability to support Wilson at quarterback.

I have a bet on Harris at +125 to be the first running back selected in the draft.

Previous pick: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
*Pick via Seahawks

24. Steelers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Height
6’2”
Weight
207 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Double Redshirt Sophomore
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1-2

I could see the Steelers going with an offensive lineman, but Farley represents too much value to ignore.

An elite cover man, Farley is not without his issues. He redshirted in 2017 because of an ACL injury and opted out of 2020 because of COVID-19, and he’s still relatively new to the position because he played quarterback in high school and started out in college as a receiver — but in the 2018-19 seasons, he looked like a true talent as a perimeter corner with his size, athleticism and overall ball skills.

Until recently, he was widely expected to go in the top 10, but then he had a back surgery…

…and since then his draft stock has dropped.

But Farley is expected to be ready to play for the 2021 season, and the Steelers lost starting cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson this offseason.

Even with the team’s notable needs on the offensive line, this pick makes so much sense for the Steelers.

Previous pick: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

25. Jaguars: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas*

Height
6’7”
Weight
309 lbs.
2021 Age
NA
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1-2

Left tackle Cam Robinson is on a one-year deal — and he’s not that good anyway. The Jags need to find a long-term blindside protector for their No. 1 overall pick, and Cosmi is a strong candidate.

With 34 college starts and experience on both sides of the line (14 games at right tackle and 21 games at left), Cosmi offers positional versatility. And with his size and length, he’s capable as both a run and pass blocker.

Previous pick: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
*Pick via Rams

26. Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Height
6’4”
Weight
260 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Redshirt Junior
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1-2

The Browns defense is notably weak at linebacker, and snap leaders B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith are both free agents. The Browns need some new blood at the position, and they get a great player in Collins at No. 26.

A unanimous All-American and the winner of the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player, Collins is the type of versatile defender who can make an immediate NFL impact. With his size, athleticism, intelligence and effort, he can hold up against the run, drop back in coverage or even rush the passer from the middle of the field or off the edge of the defensive line.

Collins looks like a multi-year starter at worst.

27. Ravens: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

Height
6’3”
Weight
240 lbs.
2021 Age
NA
Class
Redshirt Sophomore
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1-2

The Ravens lost edge rushers Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward in free agency, so they could look to address the position in Round 1.

Ojulari feels like the kind of player defensive coordinator Don Martindale would like. He’s undersized, but he plays with effort and has the versatility to function as an off-ball linebacker if needed. And he’s also productive: In 2020, he led the SEC with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.

Previous pick: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

28. Saints: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

Height
6’1”
Weight
190 lbs.
2021 Age
NA
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
3
Projected Round
1-2

At this point in Round 1, almost anything goes — especially with a team like the Saints, who don’t have many glaring weaknesses. But they did part ways with cornerback Janoris Jenkins this offseason, and Newsome is a worthy replacement.

Newsome is small, but he has adequate length to press larger receivers, and in 2020 he was phenomenal (albeit in only six games), holding opposing receivers to just 93 yards and 12 receptions on 34 targets (per Pro Football Focus).

Newsome has the talent to develop into a strong No. 2 corner opposite Marshon Lattimore.

Previous pick: Trevon Moehrig, S, Texas Christian

29. Packers: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Height
6’2”
Weight
210 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Junior
Recruit. Stars
3-4
Projected Round
1-2

The Packers don’t have many needs, but they could certainly stand to upgrade the receiver position. Outside of Davante Adams, the guys quarterback Aaron Rodgers is throwing to are just guys.

After his outstanding EXOS pro day …

… Bateman’s draft stock is on the rise, and he now is slated into Round 1 in the majority of my indexed mocks.

There’s a lot to like about Bateman. He’s one of the larger receivers in the class, and before a five-game 2020 campaign in which he had 472 yards, he was an impressive 60-1,219-11 receiving in 2019 as a sophomore.

Previous pick: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

30. Bills: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

Height
6’6”
Weight
312 lbs.
2021 Age
22
Class
Senior
Recruit. Stars
5
Projected Round
1-2

Right tackle Darryl Williams and guards Jon Feliciano, Ike Boettger and Brian Winters are all free agents. The Bills need to add depth to their offensive line to protect quarterback Josh Allen.

I’m not an offensive line guru, but Leatherwood feels like someone who should go in the top 10 based on his profile, and yet he’s routinely mocked no higher than No. 20 — in fact, he’s not even in the majority of Round 1 mocks I’ve indexed.

I don’t get it: He’s a three-year SEC starter with significant playing time at right guard (2018) and left tackle (2019-20). He entered college as a five-star recruit, and in his final season he was a unanimous All-American selection and the winner of the Outland Trophy for outstanding line play.

There’s a real case to be made that Leatherwood is the most NFL-ready offensive lineman in this draft, but I seem to be the only person interested in that argument, so I’m probably wrong.

Either way, he has a shot to go in Round 1, and he likely has the versatility to start out at right tackle or either guard spot before eventually shifting over to left tackle.

31. Chiefs: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Height
6’6”
Weight
302 lbs.
2021 Age
23
Class
Graduate
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1-2

I’m not fully satisfied with this pick, but at this point in the draft, it’s hard to find surefire Round 1 selections.

I thought about Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis as well as LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall, but I’m settling on Eichenberg.

The Chiefs very much need an offensive tackle after releasing left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz this offseason, and Eichenberg is perhaps the top player available at the position.

A consensus All-American, Eichenberg started three years for Notre Dame at left tackle and is an NFL-ready blocker in both the passing and rushing game.

Previous pick: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

32. Buccaneers: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

Height
6’5”
Weight
310 lbs.
2021 Age
NA
Class
Redshirt Sophomore
Recruit. Stars
4
Projected Round
1

This pick is mostly about getting Barmore in Round 1, but I think it also fits.

The Bucs don’t have immediate needs anywhere on the team, but interior defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea are respectively slated for free agency in 2022 and 2023.

With Barmore, the Bucs address a potential need without reaching. Despite playing for just two years at Alabama, Barmore is widely regarded as the top interior defensive lineman in the class, and in 2020 he had a team-high eight sacks.

Previous pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Rounds 1-2 Borderline

  • Trevon Moehrig, S, Texas Christian
  • Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
  • Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
  • Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
  • Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
  • Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Matthew Freedman is 1,018-828-37 (55.1%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

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