April 30, 2021
2021 NFL Draft Day 2 Preview – Ten Observations:
1. First of all, congratulations are in order for Charlie Campbell, who was able to score 13 correct picks in his 2021 NFL Mock Draft. Make it 14 if Travis Etienne is counted (Charlie had him going to the Jaguars at No. 33.) Charlie is the best in the business, and it’s no coincidence that he ranks among the leaders for accurate mock drafters every single year.
What’s wild is that Charlie nearly got half of the first round correct. If it weren’t for the Aaron Rodgers trade speculation, the Broncos likely would have selected Justin Fields. The Cowboys then would have taken Patrick Surtain, leaving Devonta Smith for the Giants. That would have given Charlie 16 correct selections without even counting Etienne!
2. Speaking of Rodgers, he usurped all draft discussion on Thursday, at least prior to 8 p.m. The 49ers’ pick almost became an afterthought once the Rodgers news was revealed.
It’s rather wild that Rodgers thought he was going to San Francisco before the 49ers reportedly nixed the trade. That would make it twice that the 49ers have passed on Rodgers, with the first occasion dating back to the 2005 NFL Draft when San Francisco foolishly picked Alex Smith over Rodgers. I didn’t get that decision then, and I still don’t understand it now. Rodgers would have instantly made the 49ers the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. They reached the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019, for crying out loud. If Rodgers was their quarterback in 2019, they would have blown out the Chiefs in Miami.
Rodgers won’t be traded to the 49ers now. The Packers won’t want anything to do with Trey Lance because they like Jordan Love, and the 49ers don’t have a first-round pick until 2024 (go here for our 2024 NFL Mock Draft.) With the 49ers no longer being an option, the Broncos are now the favorites to trade for Rodgers. The Packers have denied that Rodgers is being dealt, but I imagine this is only being said for leverage purposes. They want three first-round picks for Rodgers, and rightfully so. However, given that the Packers once again eschewed a receiver, I imagine they would take two firsts and Jerry Jeudy from the Broncos.
It’s also worth noting that the Packers will suffer a substantial cap hit if Rodgers is dealt prior to June 1. So, we may see the reigning MVP and part-time Jeopardy host traded in 31 days.
3. Sticking with the 49ers, it’s wild that they controlled everyone’s destiny with the No. 3 pick. You wouldn’t think this would be the case, but everything would have changed had they selected Mac Jones third overall. Here’s how:
Atlanta Falcons: Word is the Falcons were going to draft Trey Lance if he happened to be available. He reportedly was their top quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence.
Miami Dolphins: The Bengals still would’ve taken Ja’Marr Chase, but Kyle Pitts was Miami’s top guy. With Pitts available, he would have been the pick.
Detroit Lions: I’m not sure if the Lions would have gone with Jaylen Waddle over Penei Sewell, but I know they liked Waddle more than Devonta Smith.
New York Giants: The Giants wouldn’t have traded out of the No. 11 pick if one of the Alabama receivers happened to be available. Perhaps the Eagles still would’ve traded up for Devonta Smith, and that would have left New York with Waddle if the Lions didn’t pick him.
Chicago Bears: Perhaps the Bears wouldn’t have landed Justin Fields. If the Giants weren’t trading out of the 11th spot, the Bears likely couldn’t have moved ahead of the Patriots. Maybe Dallas would have moved down eight spots, but I don’t think the Chargers were budging off Rashawn Slater, and I’m not sure the Vikings would have handed a franchise quarterback to a divisional rival.
New England Patriots: So, would the Patriots have drafted Fields over Mac Jones? We’ll never know because it’s more difficult to get information out of Bill Belichick than the CCP, but there’s no doubt that Fields is the superior prospect.
4. I mentioned the Cowboys just now, and I thought it was interesting that they effectively decided which divisional rival would draft Devonta Smith. Had they not completed a trade with the Eagles, the Giants would have selected Smith. Instead, the Cowboys made sure the Eagles landed the receiver known as the “Slim Reaper.”
I don’t know if Jerry Jones considered Smith’s destination, but if he did, kudos to him. The Eagles have a dreadful roster and won’t be a threat to the Cowboys for at least a couple of years. The Giants, conversely, would’ve sported a ridiculous offense with Smith, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and Evan Engram. Dallas basically evened the playing field in the NFC East, and I’m sure the Redskins, currently the favorites to win the division as far as I’m concerned, should be thanking them.
5. I listed some picks above that almost happened had the 49ers gone a different route at No. 3. There were other selections that nearly occurred, including:
Arizona Cardinals: The Jets traded up to the 14th spot for Alijah Vera-Tucker. Had Vera-Tucker been available two selections later, the Cardinals would have been in a tough spot between Vera-Tucker and Zaven Collins because they loved both.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts drafted Kwity Paye, but he wasn’t their top edge-rushing choice. Jaelan Phillips was chosen three picks earlier, and he likely would have gone to Indianapolis had the Dolphins not picked him.
Tennessee Titans: We heard that the Titans liked Kadarius Toney, but the Giants stole him from them two selections before they were on the clock.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints were hoping Greg Newsome would fall to them, but the Browns made sure that didn’t happen two spots before them.
Buffalo Bills: We received word that Eric Stokes was Buffalo’s man several hours prior to the draft, which is why Charlie and I made that pick change around 4 p.m. Unfortunately for the Bills, the Packers snatched Stokes off the board at No. 29.
6. I mentioned the Zaven Collins-Alijah Vera-Tucker dilemma in the prior entry. I thought the crowd reaction to Arizona’s Collins pick was hilarious. Watch it if you can. It was the only selection that commanded no reaction from the crowd. When Roger Goodell announced Collins’ name, no one cheered and no one booed. There was just silence. I think I even heard one guy ask, “Who?”
Despite this nonplussed reaction, Collins will have an enormous impact in the NFC West. In fact, he’s the player from this draft who could have the most say as far as which team will win the toughest division in the NFL, assuming the 49ers don’t start Trey Lance right away. Collins is a terrific linebacker who can be used to rush the passer and cover the middle of the field. He was essential for the Cardinals, given the powerhouse offenses they’ll have to deal with in six of their 17 games next year.
7. The Raiders selected Alex Leatherwood one pick later. The reaction to this pick was much more critical. It seemed like everyone on TV hated it. One Raider reporter even tweeted, “I haven’t seen any mock draft have Leatherwood remotely close to 17,” prompting me to reply, “We had Leatherwood exactly at 17” with a link to our mock drafts. Lazy blue-check journalists are the worst.
Charlie Campbell did a great job of discussing why the Leatherwood pick wasn’t a reach in today’s NFL Hot Press entry.
Frankly, I was shocked by the reaction to the Leatherwood selection. Both Charlie and I have been mocking Leatherwood in the teens for months. He was my No. 19 overall player, and I even had him as high as No. 8 to Cincinnati in one mock update in the fall. Some teams loved Leatherwood’s toughness and thought very highly of him.
8. I was way more bearish on another draft choice spent on an Alabama player. I absolutely hated the Steelers’ choice of Najee Harris, even though both Charlie and I had that pick correct in our mock drafts. I despised the Travis Etienne pick even more.
As I wrote in the 2021 NFL Draft Grades last night, “Running backs grow on trees, so there’s no point in taking one in the first round. Seriously, when is the last time a team succeeded because they spent their first-round pick on a running back? I talked to one team ahead of this draft that needed a running back, and they said, ‘We can just get one in the fifth or sixth round.’ That is the correct mentality as far as running backs are concerned.”
I’ll admit that I may have been talking out of my a** when it came to that because I was posting these grades on the fly and didn’t have an opportunity to really dig into the analysis. So, let’s not be a lazy blue-check journalist and do the research now. Here are the first-round choices spent on running backs over the past several years. Let’s see how these picks have done:
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, No. 32 in 2020: Edwards-Helaire had an amazing debut, but little did we know at the time that the Texans would possess the NFL’s worst rush defense. Edwards-Helaire struggled after that and was even benched for a bit. The Chiefs would’ve been better off picking Tee Higgins or Antoine Winfield Jr.
Josh Jacobs, No. 24 in 2019: Jacobs is a good running back, but there’s no way he was the correct choice because the Raiders could’ve gotten his production with someone in the third round, like David Montgomery, Damien Harris or Alexander Mattison, all of whom were chosen in the third frame that year. Instead, the Raiders should have drafted Marquise Brown, Montez Sweat or Byron Murphy.
Saquon Barkley, No. 2 in 2018: Barkley is an amazing talent, but what has he done for the Giants besides spend time on the injury report? Running backs are brittle, and that’s part of the problem. The Giants should’ve drafted Josh Allen, Denzel Ward, Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson instead.
Rashaad Penny, No. 27 in 2018: What a waste of a pick. The Seahawks could have drafted Darius Leonard or Courtland Sutton over Penny.
Sony Michel, No. 31 in 2018: Another waste. Do you think Bill Belichick would rather have Leonard or Michel on his roster right now? What about Sutton or Mike Gesicki over Michel?
Leonard Fournette, No. 4 in 2017: The Jaguars selected Fournette over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Think about that for a second.
Christian McCaffrey, No. 8 in 2017: Like Barkley, Christian McCaffrey is an amazing talent, but he has produced no playoff appearances, and he has spent time on the injury report lately. Carolina spent a first-round pick on a running back instead of trading the selection to a team coveting Mahomes or Watson.
Ezekiel Elliott, No. 4 in 2016: Elliott has been to the Pro Bowl, and he was able to get the Cowboys to the playoffs, but hasn’t achieved a postseason win yet. He’s a great player – at least prior to his weight gain in 2020 – but Dallas would have been better off with Jalen Ramsey, Ronnie Stanley or DeForest Buckner. The Cowboys could have drafted one of them and then selected Derrick Henry in Round 2.
Todd Gurley, No. 10 in 2015: Gurley had an amazing first few seasons, but his arthritic knees have derailed his career. Again, running backs get hurt so often that you just can’t count on them. The Rams would have been better off picking Arik Armstead, Bud Dupree or Byron Jones.
Melvin Gordon, No. 15 in 2015: You can’t tell me the Chargers would be better off right now with Armstead, Dupree or Jones rather than they were after picking Gordon. The Chargers could have gotten one of those guys and then taken David Johnson in the third round.
I’m stopping there because there were no first-round running backs chosen in 2013 and 2014. You get the point though. Every single running back selection made since 2015 could have been better. There were two backs on that list who truly helped their team win a playoff game. One was Gurley, and his career is basically over after just six seasons. The other is Fournette, who is so lowly regarded now that he signed a contract worth up to just $4 million for 2021.
9. There was something missing from the 2021 NFL Draft, and I’m not talking about the dead bodies in Roger Goodell’s basement closet that Goodell forgot to bring along to the draft with his chair. I’m talking about trades!
There were just three trades made in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. I can’t remember a draft with fewer trades. There were even more deals done last year when the virtual barrier presented a problem for some teams.
I’m not sure why there weren’t many trades, but a possible solution would be an extended timer for picks. I suggest making it 12 minutes instead of the current 10 minutes. The NFL should start the draft a half hour early – or spend less time with nonsense at 8 p.m. – to compensate for teams having two more minutes each. This extra time could allow franchises to facilitate some trades that wouldn’t be made otherwise.
10. Speaking of trades, the Vikings seem to be in the best position to make some moves on Day 2. They currently have Nos. 66, 78, 86 and 90, plus Nos. 119, 125 and 134 in the fourth round. That’s a ton of capital, so I expect them to make some trades to move into the second frame. I imagine they’ll be targeting a safety (Trevon Moehrig, Jevon Holland, Andre Cisco, Richie Grant) or a pass rusher (Carlos Basham, Azeez Ojulari, Rashad Weaver, Joseph Ossai.)
Fantasy Football Perspective:
For a fantasy football perspective, there were 13 players chosen in the first round. Here they are, ordered by dynasty value:
- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
- Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
- Devonta Smith, WR, Eagles
- Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons
- Travis Etienne, RB, Jaguars
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars
- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins
- Justin Fields, QB, Bears
- Zach Wilson, QB, Jets
- Trey Lance, QB, 49ers
- Kadarius Toney, WR, Giants
- Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens
- Mac Jones, QB, Patriots
It was a tough call between Ja’Marr Chase and Najee Harris. I’d usually favor the running back, but Pittsburgh’s offensive line is so bad right now. Travis Etienne, meanwhile, will be splitting the workload with James Robinson, so that would explain why he’s behind Devonta Smith and Kyle Pitts.
Of course, other running backs will be added to this list after Friday. Check out the 2021 NFL Mock Re-Draft for Rounds 2-3 to see where these backs could be chosen.
I’ll have more definitive 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings following the NFL Draft.
Best Players Available for Day 2:
My top-25 available players for the second round (with links to their scouting reports):
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Jackson Carman, G/OT, Clemson
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Christian Barmore, DE/DT, Alabama
Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Azeez Ojulari, DE/OLB, Georgia
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Dayo Odeyingbo, DE/DT, Vanderbilt
Carlos Basham, DE/DT, Wake Forest
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
Rondale Moore, RB/WR, Purdue
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh
Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
2021 NFL Draft Mailbag:
From Jeremy W.
I have four questions actually, because I need someone to help me make sense of some things.
1. Have the Bengals made a big error in passing on the generational talent in Sewell to keep Burrow happy with Chase? I love Chase as a prospect and I’m sure he’ll do well but it seems like they got their priorities wrong…
2. You’ve said Trey Smith has been cleared of his medical issues but some teams took him off their boards for those medical reasons as well. In general, is he set to be a second day pick or will he fall?
3. You graded the Jets poorly for trading up, calling Alijah Vera-Tucker a guard. Would the trade be more favourable if they viewed him as a tackle or is he still a reach?
4. Any whispers on who Jacksonville like at #33?
–> I think it’s an error, but it may not be a big error depending on what the Bengals do on Day 2. There are still several quality offensive linemen like Jackson Carman, Liam Eichenberg, Teven Jenkins and Jalen Mayfield, among others. They need to pick the best offensive lineman available in the second round.
All it takes is one team with Trey Smith. If one team cleared him and likes him, he’ll go on Day 2. If not, he’ll continue to fall.
I think so. I feel like guards can be found anywhere in the draft, but left tackles can’t. That said, teams generally viewed Vera-Tucker as a guard instead of a tackle because of length issues.
We have no direct sources with the Jaguars, but Charlie correctly mocked Travis Etienne to them (albeit at 33 instead of 25), and he thinks they’ll pick Teven Jenkins.
From Rob N.
The Cardinals have 3 inside linebackers now with the drafting of Zaven Collins. Do they plan on playing him at outside linebacker in their base scheme?
–> The Cardinals love their flexibility with Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. Whereas Simmons can play inside linebacker and safety, Collins can play inside linebacker and outside linebacker. This versatility will come in handy if there are injuries.
From Tim H.
Make a pick for the Eagles in the second round.
–> Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah would be the best player available, and he would fill a huge need for the Eagles and their dreadful linebacking corps.
From Hugo G.
Whatcha think about the Niners getting Trey Lance at #3.
–> Much better than Mac Jones! Lance has huge upside and appears to be a real NFL starting quarterback, unlike Mac Jones, who is way too much like Andy Dalton for my liking.
From Thomas P.
If Trevon Moehrig isn’t the first safety to be taken, who will be?
–> Jevon Holland is my best guess. He’s super instinctive, and I know that as of three weeks ago, one team had interest in him in the second round.
From Phillip H.
Why didnt Gettlemann left NY with the other libtards during pandemic? Would have been a better pick.
–> At least he wasn’t wearing a mask while by himself at home this year.
From Anthony M.
Will Browns trade up for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, as opposed to taking wr?
–> I would do it. The Browns need all the talented linebackers they can get in order to defend Lamar Jackson.
From Ty B.
Better career based on their fit with drafted team: Lance or Fields?
–> That’s a tough question because I like Fields more than Lance, yet Lance will be surrounded by better coaches. I’ll say Lance just because of his supporting cast in San Francisco, but there’s no wrong answer.
From Marcel O.
What round do you think Bucs draft a QB and who do you think they have an eye on?
–> I’d say Rounds 3-5 is the sweet spot, and Peyton Ramsey is someone who could interest them in that range. If they wait longer, Sam Ehlinger makes sense.
From Pat R.
What would your grade be if the Bucs drafted Richie Grant (S) in the second round? Or hypothetically if they picked Grant instead of Tryon in R1?
–> I wouldn’t have graded the Grant pick well at all in the first round because he wouldn’t have been the best safety available. He’s also not as good as Joe Tryon, and Tryon plays a more important position. That said, Grant would be a nice pick in the second round. He has great instincts and could start sooner rather than later.
From Andrew B.
Did Rodgers impact any team’s moves? Or is trading for him near impossible?
–> For sure. The Broncos were strongly considering Justin Fields before the Aaron Rodgers news erupted. That changed once they became the favorites to trade for him.
From Dustin K.
Is #7 too high for a right tackle? Or do you think the Lions move Decker to the other side?
–> That used to be the case back when the movie The Blind Side was made, but the NFL has become such a pass-heavy league and uses pass rushers all over the place, so having a talented right tackle is more important than ever. I think Penei Sewell could eventually move to left tackle.
From William W.
Do you think the drop off from 1st rounders to 2 rounders in this year’s draft is huge compared to other years?
–> Depends on the position. For receivers, yes, and it’s why I didn’t criticize the Packers too much for passing on receivers when there weren’t any good ones available. For the offensive tackles, I’d say no after Penei Sewell. I’d also say no for the cornerbacks after the top two guys. There’s not much of a difference between the Aaron Robinsons/Tyson Campbells and the Eric Stokeses/Greg Newsomes.
From Mike B..
Who are the biggest surprises who didn’t get taken in the 1st round?
–> Given the NFL being so hungry for good offensive line play, I’m surprised that Teven Jenkins wasn’t chosen in the first round. Also, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah because he’s such an athletic linebacker.
From Russ T.
Am I wrong for the excitement of the Smith pick, which is real, to be damped by the fact we had to go WR in Rd 1 back to back years because we whiffed on a kid who isn’t big or fast and wasn’t productive in college like Reagor.
–> I think it’s a huge mistake, in any facet of life, to compound mistakes because of a previous error. If the Eagles loved Devonta Smith, their selection of Jalen Reagor shouldn’t have had a bearing on the pick. It’s vital to identify sunk costs like Reagor and adjust accordingly, so Philadelphia did a great job of doing just that.
From Dave P.
Yeah I’m biased, but the 2 Notre Dame guys that were supposed to be picked in the 1st round, JOK and Liam E are going to be great values for somebody!
–> Both easily could have been first-round picks. I imagine they won’t wait very long to hear their names come off the board on Day 2.
From Kenny S.
Chances of A-a-Ron being traded this weekend for one of the picks? What teams could even be in consideration?
–> I think there’s a better chance Rodgers is traded at some point during the summer, perhaps after the June 1 designation. That said, if the Packers are able to designate Rodgers as a post-June 1 trade, it could happen beforehand. I know teams can designate cuts as post-June 1 even if it occurs earlier than that, but I’m not sure about trades.
From Michael D.
Who’s your day 2 can’t miss prospect?
–> Trevon Moehrig seems like a can’t-miss prospect to me. His floor is very high because of his quality instincts, ball skills and tackling ability.
From Jonas B.
Do you have any predictions on teams doing dumb things tonight? I.e. pulling an Eagle.
–> I can’t wait to see which team picks a kicker!
From Ron S.
Were you surprised about the Titans pick. I heard their pick had character issues and they totally whiffed their luck last year.
–> Caleb Farley’s big issue is his injury history. He has some severe back problems that could prevent him from playing much, unfortunately.
From Dan P.
Will the Eagles overthink the rest of the draft and go for project linebackers?
–> You can’t ever count out the Eagles from doing something crazy, but they’re off to a good start in this draft, so maybe Howie Roseman will do well for a change.
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