Ladies and gentleman, #DraftSZN is officially upon us.
As the final images of Tom Brady planting one on the Lombardi Trophy like it’s his dad fade from our memory, we now turn our attention to a draft process that will be unlike any other in history.
The absence of an NFL Combine, combined with all-virtual team visits and a reliance on Pro Day testing data, make the 2021 Draft even more of an unknown than usual.
In spite of all that uncertainty, in my first piece here at Draft Rite, I’ve decided to take a look at one 2021 prospect who could fit the plans of your favorite team this spring. While it doesn’t mean that particular player will be on the board when said favorite team is picking, their pairing will make more sense than an overly-ambitious defensive back and a Derrick Henry stiff arm.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Arizona Cardinals – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Longtime franchise cornerstone Patrick Peterson’s return to the desert is anything but guaranteed this offseason and if so, GM Steve Keim will need to replenish the secondary in a hurry if they want a chance at competing in the NFC West next season.
In this scenario, a Cardinal stays a Cardinal with the selection of Stanford’s Paulson Adebo. Adebo, who opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, has outstanding ball skills that could make him one of the best corners from this class when all is said and done. Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas ties could pay off here with Adebo, a former prep standout in the Lone Star state.
Atlanta Falcons – Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
New head coach Arthur Smith worked magic in Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, which has me feeling that a quarterback at number four overall isn’t as sure of a thing as people have made it out to be. And that’s all without taking Ryan’s monstrous contract into account.
It’s no secret that the Falcons need to get better on defense and I expect them to invest significant draft capital to make it happen. Duke’s Chris Rumph II is a uniquely versatile, twitchy edge rusher whom new Atlanta defensive assistant Lanier Goethie got an up-close look at during his time on the Blue Devils coaching staff.
Buffalo Bills – Alaric Jackson, OL, Iowa
The Bills fell one game short of the Super Bowl behind remarkable seasons from Josh Allen and new addition Stefon Diggs. You can never have too much protection for your franchise quarterback, which is why Buffalo opts for Iowa’s athletic, powerful offensive tackle, Alaric Jackson.
Baltimore Ravens – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Perhaps no team in the NFL had as disappointing of a 2020 season as the Baltimore Ravens. Wide receiver (Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC) will also be a consideration but there’s no denying how perfect of a fit Alijah Vera-Tucker would be at guard for the Ravens’ offensive attack. Baltimore would all but certainly need to engineer a trade up the board to get him but it would be worth it to help get the club’s offense back on track in 2021.
Carolina Panthers – Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
The Panthers’ reported willingness to part with the number eight overall pick for Matthew Stafford gives me the sense they aren’t enamored with any of the quarterbacks in the first-round conversation. Regardless of how Matt Rhule and Joe Brady approach the position next season, they know that they need more protection for whoever ends up taking the majority of the snaps.
Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins is one of the more underrated offensive line prospects in the 2021 class and could immediately slide into a starting role for Carolina if they lose Russell Okung and Taylor Moton in free agency.
Cincinnati Bengals – Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia
Joe Burrow’s promising rookie season came to a disappointing end due to an ugly knee injury, but all reports indicate he’ll be ready to go next season. Offensive line should be the play early, but Cincy will need to supplement that with more weapons on offense in later rounds. Tre’ McKitty is an ultra-athletic pass catcher who could add an explosive element to the Bengals’ offense in two tight end sets alongside Drew Sample.
Cleveland Browns – Tyler Shelvin, iDL, LSU
Kevin Stefanski still has the chance to live out everyone’s favorite NFL joke by taking the Browns to the Super Bowl next season, but he’ll need a better run defense to do it. LSU’s Tyler Shelvin is one of the best interior run defenders in the class and could be a great fit for the Cleveland defensive front.
Chicago Bears – Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan
You have to assume that next season is truly the last audition for Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace to prove they can be trusted to lead Chicago into the future. Quarterback woes and the contract situation of Allen Robinson will loom large this offseason, so it would be wise of the Bears to invest up front. Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield is a long, athletic tackle prospect whose highest ceiling could be at guard in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys – Levi Onwuzurike, iDL, Washington
In the time it took you to read this sentence, the Dallas Cowboys gave up another 100 yards rushing.
Regardless of how or if Jerry Jones decides to handle Dak Prescott’s next contract, this team needs help plugging its porous run defense. Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, whose name I will almost certainly get tired of spelling, is one of the draft’s most underrated defensive prospects. He excels at blowing up running lanes and offers plenty of athleticism and upside as a pass rusher.
The former Husky could very well wind up as one of the steals of the draft and should be a perfect fit along the Cowboys’ defensive front.
Denver Broncos – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The return of Courtland Sutton alongside Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant makes for an awfully exciting group of skill position players. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Drew Lock is the guy throwing them the ball.
Lock has had his moments as a starter but is far too turnover-prone at this stage in his career to be considered Denver’s long-term answer at quarterback. While I’m not personally a huge fan, Alabama’s Mac Jones seems like the most logical fit of any available quarterback prospect for Pat Shurmur’s offense. Jones won’t light the world on fire but offers a high enough floor to give the Broncos a good shot to compete next season.
Detroit Lions – Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
The Matt Patricia/Bob Quinn era in Detroit came to an unceremonious end and as a result of the new regime brought in to replace them, so too did the Matthew Stafford era.
It remains to be seen whether Jarred Goff’s newfound motivation can help bring more success with the Lions than it did in LA, but there’s no denying this is the beginning stages of a full-scale rebuild. A first-round quarterback selection seems to be off the table with Goff’s arrival, so instead they’ll likely focus on adding talent at the skill positions.
A potential target on Day 2, North Carolina’s Dyami Brown seems to play with exactly the level of tenacity that new head coach Dan Campbell will fall in love with. Brown could become a favorite target of Goff early in his career, particularly if Kenny Golladay elects to leave in free agency.
Green Bay Packers – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
The season finale of the Rodgers-LaFleur soap opera ended one game short of the Super Bowl but don’t expect Green Bay to break up the band just yet.
Aside from needing more weapons on the outside (discount Will Fuller V, perhaps?), the Packers could use an infusion of athleticism at the linebacker position in LSU’s Jabril Cox.
Houston Texans – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Before Jack Easterby starts disqualifying prospects for not having a vision board, the Texans will need to decide on the long-term futures of two of the best players in franchise history, Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt.
Watson seems all but certain to not suit up next year in Houston, which means this will be a full-scale rebuild led by a rookie quarterback like Justin Fields or Zach Wilson. In this scenario, they add twitchy pass rusher Kwity Paye to help attempt to replace JJ Watt up front.
Indianapolis Colts – Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
Despite not having a clear answer at quarterback after the retirement of Philip Rivers, the Colts are in a great spot this offseason. A good, young defense and the second-most cap space of any team in the league afford them an opportunity to be even more of a Super Bowl contender than they already are.
Whoever winds up at quarterback, they’ll need more depth at wideout and Arizona State’s Frank Darby is an excellent fit in the later rounds. Darby’s physicality, reliable hands and willingness as a blocker should allow him to carve out a nice role on special teams early in his career.
Kansas City Chiefs – Spencer Brown, OL, Northern Iowa
Eric Fisher’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Kansas City and his absence allowed the Buccaneers’ defensive front had a field day in Super Bowl 55.
Finding more edge rushers will likely be a focus early on but this team needs more cost-controlled talent on the offensive line to protect the biggest investment in franchise history, Patrick Mahomes. While he didn’t have a great week at the Senior Bowl, Northern Iowa’s Spencer Brown has plenty of intriguing traits to warrant a mid-round selection for Andy Reid and company.
Las Vegas Raiders – Keith Taylor Jr., CB, Washington
The Raiders allowed the sixth-most net air yards per attempt in the NFL last season, which makes improving the secondary non-negotiable this offseason.
New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will likely lean on some of the same philosophies that won him a Super Bowl as a member of the Seahawks’ coaching staff, one of which is long, physical corners on the outside. Washington’s Keith Taylor Jr. fits that description and could help to lead a vastly-improved Vegas defense in 2021.
Los Angeles Chargers – Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson
Head coach Brandon Staley didn’t have to travel far for his new gig and with it comes a built-in franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert.
Herbert’s success as a rookie was even more impressive considering the constant pressure he was under from his sieve of an offensive line. Expect the Chargers to shore up the unit early and often in the 2021 NFL Draft, with Clemson’s Jackson Carman as a great fit on Day 2.
Los Angeles Rams – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
No one in the world hates anything as much as Les Snead hates first-round picks so once again, the Rams head into a draft with limited capital at their disposal.
LA could use an infusion of talent at the linebacker position and Alabama’s Dylan Moses, once a five-star recruit for the Crimson Tide, could be just what Sean McVay is looking to add to his defense.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Barring something crazier than a yearlong, global pandemic, Trevor Lawrence is set to be the quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars next season. With DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault and James Robinson, the Jags could add a security blanket for their franchise quarterback in the form of Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth.
Freiermuth will be the consolation prize for any team that doesn’t land Kyle Pitts and it just so happens that Jacksonville recently plucked Freiermuth’s position coach at Penn State, Tyler Bowen, to work on Urban Meyer’s staff.
Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon
If not for an otherworldly crop of quarterbacks, there’s a chance we’d be taking about Oregon’s Penei Sewell as the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Depending on where the chips fall in the Dolphins’ potential pursuit of Deshaun Watson, Sewell could be the perfect selection for Miami early in the first round to protect whomever they choose to be their franchise quarterback.
Minnesota Vikings – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Vikings were in cap hell last year and were forced to rebuild their once-feared defense from the ground up as a result.
Thankfully, Minnesota once again has 10+ selections heading into this draft and should continue to add depth on both sides of the ball. Mike Zimmer’s defenses have been at their best with a shutdown secondary at its disposal, and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II would be a perfect addition to the Vikings’ defensive scheme.
New England Patriots – Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
Another team with plenty of questions left to answer at quarterback, the Patriots simultaneously took a huge step back on defense in 2020.
Don’t expect Bill Belichick’s team to be down for long, though. The Patriots know the formula for putting together great defenses and one component is adding explosive, lengthy edge defenders like Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo. The former Commodore can play anywhere Belichick wants him to along the defensive line and should help to improve the club’s pass rush woes right away.
New Orleans Saints – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
To put the Saints’ cap situation into perspective, let’s just say that their mascot for next season should be a giant overdraft fee from Bank of America.
Jokes aside, secondary help will be a must as the team lacks the financial flexibility to pay impending free agent Marcus Williams. Like Williams, Moehrig is a dynamic, rangy safety who could serve as a capable replacement in the late first or early second round.
New York Giants – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Dave Gettleman has been trying to log into his Netflix account for four years and as a result, misses the Giants selecting talented edge defender Jayson Oweh from Penn State to improve the club’s pass rush unit.
New York Jets – D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
We’ll see how confident the Jets’ regime is in Sam Darnold, but this team certainly needs help at wide receiver. Expect Denzel Mims to take a step forward in his sophomore campaign and for Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge to be a potential addition late on Day 2.
Eskridge turned plenty of heads at the Senior Bowl in Mobile last month and could develop into one of the league’s premiere slot receivers over the next few years.
Philadelphia Eagles – Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
The glory of an Eagles’ Super Bowl championship seems to be more of a distant memory with each passing day and with a new head coach and practically zero cap space, Philly could have a drastically different roster next season. If the team is able to shed Carson Wentz’s albatross of a contract, they’ll need to do everything in their power to protect Jalen Hurts up front. Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood is one prospect who could help to give the club continuity on the offensive line that it has desperately lacked in recent years.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Marvin Wilson, iDL, Florida State
Being nearly 30 years old, I don’t pretend to know which Tik Tok’s impact JuJu Smith-Schuster’s chances of an extension with Pittsburgh, so I’ll instead turn to another team need up front.
Florida State’s Marvin Wilson, once a five-star prospect out of high school, has the talent of a top-ten pick but lacks consistency. If the Steelers are able to unlock his full potential, they could have one of the steals of this class.
San Francisco 49ers – Pro Wells, TE, TCU
Despite missing eight games, George Kittle logged 46 percent of the 49ers’ total targets at the tight end position. Though he’s expected to be fully healthy in 2021, Kyle Shanahan certainly wouldn’t complain at the thought of adding another dynamic pass-catching tight end to his offensive arsenal.
TCU’s Pro Wells, one of the draft’s most aptly-named prospects, logged eight touchdowns over the past two seasons for the Horned Frogs and would be a dangerous alongside Kittle in two tight end packages. Look for the Niners to address the secondary early with names like Georgia’s Eric Stokes or Tyson Campbell, and turn to the offensive side of the ball and Wells early on Day 3.
Seattle Seahawks – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Lost in the shuffle of this New York Times piece explaining how the Seahawks escaped the 2020 season without a positive COVID test was the news that wide receiver Tyler Lockett nearly opted out of the season due to a heart condition. This fact, along with his free agent status following next season, could mean that Lockett will play his last year in a Seahawks uniform in 2021.
If Russell Wilson gets his way, the Seahawks will add another weapon or two on offense even without much draft capital to speak of. To me, Oklahoma State wideout Tylan Wallace fits the mold of a Seattle receiver perfectly, displaying excellent body control and willingness as a blocker in the run game. Wallace could wind up as the team’s lone pick on Day 2, with Cal cornerback Camryn Bynum and Virginia Tech safety Divine Deablo as other mid-round names to keep an eye on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Might as well keep giving Tom Brady weapons to throw to until his retirement at the age of 75, right?
Tennessee Titans – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Limited cap space means the Titans are likely to focus their draft capital on the defensive side of the ball, with EDGE and cornerback being two clear needs.
Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II is one of the class’ fastest risers at the position and would give Mike Vrabel another physical presence to add to his defense.
Washington Football Team – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Alex Smith’s comeback last season was equal parts incredible and nerve-wracking, but it won’t change the fact that he’s due to be a cap casualty after June 1st. The team has a cornerstone on defense in Chase Young, plus some talent on offense in the form of Antonio Gibson and “Scary” Terry McLaurin.
Quarterback will be need A-Z and even if Florida’s Kyle Trask doesn’t have the ceiling of his early-round counterparts, he should be able to be serviceable enough to keep Washington in contention until they explore a more permanent solution (maybe even Virginia native Russell Wilson?). The WFT should have plenty of intel on Trask, who was teammates with current staffer Luke Del Rio at Florida back in 2017.