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Mock Drafts

Thor's Three-Round Mock Draft

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: August 21, 2020, 10:26 am ET

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

As with most top prospects who drew scouts’ eyes early in their careers, Trevor Lawrence started to get nitpicked a bit over the summer as folks dove into his tape. He wasn’t as mechanically sound as some would like for a presumptive top-pick candidate, Tee Higgins salvaged oodles of yards for him downfield on jump balls, etc. I’d caution against overthinking this one. Lawrence is a prodigy, an elite pocket passer with a big frame and a strong arm who also happens to be a strong athlete, capable of inflicting damage as a runner and making plays outside of structure. He’s going to keep getting better.

2. Washington – Ohio State QB Justin Fields

I believe in Dwayne Haskins. But if Washington is picking second again – as they are in this exercise – that assuredly means Haskins didn’t take the developmental step forward in 2020 that Washington might need to see to eschew a quarterback prospect like Justin Fields. Washington’s new staff and brain trust didn’t choose Haskins, and likely won’t afford him a long leash. If Washington was picking No. 2 and wanted to stick with Haskins, conversely, the No. 2 slot would become prime trade-out real estate, and Washington could field Godfather move-up offers from teams like Las Vegas, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Indianapolis, or Chicago. Either way, Fields is the odds-on 1.2 favorite currently.

3. Cincinnati Bengals – Oregon OT Penei Sewell

It won’t take long to submit this card. Sewell is easily the most dominant offensive lineman in this class, and he’s still only 19. The light-footed bulldozer would ensure Joe Burrow’s blind side is clean for the foreseeable future. Sewell’s presence would significantly upgrade Cincinnati’s Achilles heel; over the summer, PFF ranked the Bengals’ offensive line No. 31 in the NFL. Sewell and Jonah Williams would solve the tackle issue, leaving Cincinnati a few interior starters away from turning a negative position group into a positive.

4. Carolina Panthers – LSU WR J’Marr Chase

How perfect would this be? The best receiver in the class reunites with former LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady, now the wunderkind OC of the Panthers. Meanwhile, Carolina, in need of receivers to stock Brady’s wide-open system, could enter 2021 with a scary top four of Chase, Robby Anderson, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. Carolina could also consider a quarterback if they’re picking this high, though it’s worth noting that Teddy Bridgewater is essentially guaranteed the job through 2021 – it would take a $20 million cap hit to move on from him after this season, but only $5 million to cut Bridgewater following Year 2 of his three-year deal.

5. New York Jets – Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle

Going back to his time at USC, Sam Darnold has rarely shared the field with game-breaking receivers. It should be New York’s top priority next offseason to change that. Waddle is so dangerous, with 4.3 wheels and precision steering through traffic. He led the country with 12.2 yards after the catch last year. And as with former teammate Henry Ruggs, Waddle’s deep speed must be respected by the defense each play. Waddle also provides All-Pro returner ability.

6. Miami Dolphins – Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau

Shop local! Rousseau is no finished product, and yes, he has his share of frustrating reps on tape. But how much do we really want to nitpick a 6’5/260 plus-athlete who posted 15.5/19.5 sacks/TFL in a first-year rFR starter in a major conference? Rousseau played receiver and safety in high school! Sky’s the limit, with the caveat that Rousseau isn’t as close to it as his gaudy first season output would suggest (his 80.7/76.2 PFF pass-rushing/overall grades were good, not elite). With Rousseau planning to declare after opting out of the 2020 season, his NFL team needs to realize he’ll be further away from making an impact than most recent top-10 overall EDGE players we’ve seen taken, with more inherent risk. But not every draft class offers a prospect with Rousseau’s combination of length, build, bend and star-level college production. Will be a fascinating eval.

7.  New York Giants – Alabama CB Patrick Surtain Jr.

After focusing on the offensive line in this past draft, the Giants will likely be sitting dead-red on secondary help in next year’s process. Surtain has as good of odds as any corner in this class as ending CB1 when the dust clears. He’s got the athleticism. He’s got the rangy frame. He’s got the pedigree. He’s got the NFL bloodlines. He has outstanding tape and grading numbers over multiple SEC seasons. A long, rugged press corner who pops you and stays in your hip pocket.

8. Las Vegas Raiders – NDSU QB Trey Lance

You could argue that a canceled 2020 season hurts Lance as much as it hurts any prospect. The Bison had a monster team returning this fall, and Lance appeared poised to build on last year’s objectively (close to) perfect season. Instead, assuming his college career is over, he’s going to have to decide between gambling on an NFL team taking an unprecedented top-10 shot on a one-year FCS starting quarterback, or returning to NDSU as a fourth-year junior in 2021. If Lance enters the 2020 draft, he’s your fascinating boom-bust wildcard subplot of the entire process. Either way, he would make a ton of sense for a team like the Raiders, which would allow Lance to begin his career as QB2 learning from a veteran. This bears repeating: No redshirt sophomore FCS quarterback with one-year starting experience has ever been a first-round pick. 

9. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans) – Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman

Tua needs targets in the worst way. And if we know one thing about Tua, it’s that he possesses all-world vision and anticipation. Receivers who create separation feast with him. Bateman may not test at the top of this class athletically, but he’s one of the crop’s top route runners, a technician with outstanding hands. He creates easy separation on the outside and wins at all levels of the field. He and Tua would work together.

10.  Detroit Lions – Florida State iDL Marvin Wilson

Wilson probably would have been a first-round pick had he opted into the 2020 NFL Draft. In lieu of circumstances, a canceled season probably isn’t the worst thing for him, as he has the best multi-year tape collection of this interior class by margin at the moment. Either way, Wilson provides stout run support and reliable interior pressure. A former five-star recruit and a strong athlete, Wilson comes with a very low bust-rate profile in the class that won’t have as many sure bets as past years due to opt-outs and canceled seasons.

11.  Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) – Texas OT Samuel Cosmi

A skyscraper with athleticism, Cosmi is a prototype left tackle, a 6-foot-7, 310-pounder with smooth-shuffling agility. He needs some technical work, sure, but only Penei Sewell among the top-20 or so preseason 2021 NFL Draft OT prospects out-graded him by PFF’s metrics in each of the past two years. With Trevor Lawrence locked up, the Jags go looking for their next Tony Boselli to protect him.

12.  Los Angeles Chargers – Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood

Speaking of protecting young quarterbacks, the Chargers priority for next offseason will be fixing the offensive line tasked with keeping face-of-the-franchise QB Justin Herbert upright. Leatherwood has played big in big spots – notably left tackle for the second half and OT as a true frosh in the 2017 title game against Georgia after Jonah Williams got knocked out. Leatherwood proved adept pass-blocking over the course of a season in his first full campaign at left tackle in 2019, a strong athlete who plays with balance and understanding of angles. Once Tua went down, Leatherwood had blind-side duties protecting newbie starter Mac Jones, and looked good doing it, out-grading teammate Jedrick Wills in pass-pro by PFF’s numbers.

13.  Denver Broncos – Penn State LB Micah Parsons

If Drew Lock proves to be a standout quarterback, Denver is very close to returning to contention. The Broncos could use another tackle, but Cosmi and Leatherwood just got popped. Stopping Parsons’ fall at 1.13 would give the Broncos a horrifyingly scary second-level unit. Parsons would slot in the middle between edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. A fabulous run defender with outstanding range, Parsons is also a Chupacabra on the blitz.

14.  Atlanta Falcons – Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham

Atlanta opted for a corner in Round 1 in April instead of addressing its pass-rushing need. This time around, they’d kill for a player like Boogie Basham to fall into their laps. It’s a little surprising Basham hasn’t gotten more hype. The No. 2 ranked athletic “Freak” on Bruce Feldman’s annual list this summer, Basham posted 11 sacks and 18 TFL in 2019 (90.6 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2019). Feldman reported that Basham benches over 400 pounds, squats over 700 pounds, and boasts a dizzying 4.21 second shuttle time and 36-inch vertical jump. Basham is so fast and relentless that Wake has him on the kickoff team.

15. Arizona Cardinals – Purdue WR Rondale Moore

Moore is one of the most explosive playmakers we’ve seen in college football over the past two seasons. He would be a dream come true in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid, a lightning-fast athlete who can explode to the end zone from anywhere on the field. If Larry Fitzgerald moves on after this season, the Cardinals could move forward with a receiver group of DeAndre Hopkins-Moore-Christian Kirk-Andy Isabella-KeeSean Johnson-Hakeem Butler, a strong group with complimenting skill sets for QB Kyler Murray.

16. Chicago Bears – Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley 

Farley is one of the most decorated corners eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft, leading the ACC with 16 passes defended last year to go with four interceptions. He’s also a sick athlete. Checking in at No. 11 on Bruce Feldman’s summer “Freaks” list, the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder registered a mind-bending 24.16 mph on his GPS tracker against Notre Dame last year that puts him in the Tyreek Hill/Henry Ruggs top-end speed supergroup. 

17. Tennessee Titans – Alabama iDL Christian Barmore

The Titans rolled the dice on Jeffrey Simmons recently and won big -- how about another gamble on a high-ceiling interior lineman? Barmore is another kind of boom-or-bust proposition: He’s only played 269 career snaps. But last season, where he was a designated pass-rusher for two-thirds of the year before starting the last four games, Barmore finished with the same amount of pressures as stud FSU iDL Marvin Wilson… on 123 fewer pass-rushes (per PFF). Enormous (6’5/315) and physically gifted, Barmore is untested but boasts an All-Pro ceiling.

18. Cleveland Browns – Alabama LB Dylan Moses

Moses is another interesting draft case. A former five-star recruit, Moses flashed star upside (amid inconsistencies, especially in coverage) his first two years before tearing an ACL prior to his junior season in 2019. He’s got plenty of range in run defense, and has a high career pressure rate when sent on the blitz. If there isn’t a college season this fall and Moses declares anyway, he’ll be hoping a team gambles on his ceiling, as he would be coming off a two-year layoff in 2021 and has never put it all together.

19. Minnesota Vikings – Alabama WR Devonta Smith

The third straight Crimson Tide player off the board, and fifth already in this mock draft. The Vikings plan to go another season making heavy use of Kyle Rudolph/Irv Smith, leaving the Purple in two-receiver sets more than just about any team in the league. If Rudolph’s time with the team expires after this coming season, Minnesota may dovetail strategy to cater to more modern offensive machinations, grabbing another receiver to revert back to a three-receiver base. Smith has shown versatility in winning from various spots on the field with a mix of polish, strong hands and shakability. He led Alabama’s insane receiving corps in yards last season, and has dropped only three of 112 catchable targets over the past two years.

20. Buffalo Bills -- Ohio State CB Shaun Wade

Wade played slot between CBs Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette last year amid Ohio State’s fabulous troika of cover men. He has ceiling left for further development as a pure cover guy. But it’s clear from film that Wade is a fleet, explosive athlete, and he’s already proven to be an exceptional tackler who’ll improve a team’s run defense by crashing down consistently with purpose. The versatile playmaker is also one of the country’s best returning corners when sent on the blitz – he posted two sacks and four TFL last year, with a sterling 92.8 PFF pass-rushing grade.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers – LSU iDL Tyler Shelvin

Javon Hargrave left in free agency over the offseason and the Steelers don’t have a long-term solution to replace him. Pittsburgh could shop local with Pittsburgh iDL Jaylen Twyman here, but the 6-foot-3, 346-pound Shelvin, who has 55 pounds on Twyman, feels like a better block-eating inside fit for Pittsburgh’s scheme than the undersized Twyman.

22. Green Bay Packers – USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

After eschewing a glaring receiver need this past offseason, the Packers must address the position heading into 2021 – and not with more stop-gap measures. This pick would reunite St. Brown with his brother, Equanimeous. It would also give the Packers a versatile, high-ceiling receiver prospect who can handle outside duties but was also a killer for USC’s Air Raid in the slot last fall.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) -- Stanford CB Paulson Adebo

The Jets addressed their receiver need with Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle earlier in the mock. This time around, they plug a cornerback need with Adebo. Adebo is a long ballhawk with a knack for getting his hands on the pigskin.  

24. Philadelphia Eagles – Oregon S Jevon Holland

The Eagles will be in the market for a safety even if free-agent acquisition Rodney McLeod pans out swimmingly. McLeod is more your natural center-fielder, while Holland is closer to a next-generation prototype. Holland is an extremely sticky cover guy in the slot, and he’s active against the run, showing plus range and a much-improved conversation rate on his tackles as a sophomore in 2019. In only two active seasons, he already has nine interceptions and 10 breakups.

25. New England Patriots -- Pittsburgh iDL Jaylen Twyman

Twyman was a revelation last year, earning Second-Team All-American honors after piling up 10.5 sacks. He’s not a human boulder in the mold of Vince Wilfork or Danny Shelton, but Twyman is a handful, with quick feet and a deep bag of pass-rushing moves.

26. Indianapolis Colts – Georgia QB Jamie Newman

Newman is a really intriguing talent, and arguably the current leader of the second tier of QB prospects behind the Lawrence-Fields-Lance trio. Newman is stoutly built and eats down the field, with PFF passing grades of 90+ on balls thrown 20+ yards downfield in all three directions. He’s also athletic enough to do damage outside of the pocket, where he’s a load to tackle.

27. Dallas Cowboys – Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye

Classic boom/bust scenario if Paye has played his last collegiate snap. The No. 1 athletic “Freak” on Bruce Feldman’s list this fall, the 6-4, 271-pound Paye boasts an insane 6.37 second 3-cone, which would have topped all participants at the 2020 combine. Paye also has tested better than any defensive lineman or EDGE at the 2020 combine with a 4.57 forty and 4.15 pro shuttle time. Paye also owns a 34-inch vertical, 30 reps on the bench press, and a mind-blowing 11.3 in the 60-yard shuttle. Paye is extremely raw, more ball-of-clay-athlete than pure pass rusher at this time, but he still posted 50 tackles, 12.5 TFL and 6.5 sacks last season in his first year as a full-time starter, with a solid 77.8 PFF pass-rushing grade.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Clemson RB Travis Etienne

If Ronald Jones takes a developmental leap or Ke’Shawn Vaughn proves to have starting chops, Tampa will look another direction. But if that duo underwhelms in 2020, taking a high-end running back prospect like Etienne or Chuba Hubbard at the end of Round 1 would make a ton of sense for the Bucs, who may enter 2021 with only one year left of the Tom Brady contention window.

29. New Orleans Saints – Florida TE Kyle Pitts

Assuming Adam Trautman doesn’t show star traits immediately, New Orleans may be in the market for a difference-making tight end next offseason. Pitts is the most skilled and explosive receiving option in this class. He was easily Florida’s most reliable target last year. And with Alvin Kamara’s future potentially up in the air as the Saints assess their cap situation following the 2020 season, New Orleans may just use this slot to grab the best offensive playmaker they can get their hands on.

30. Baltimore Ravens – Oklahoma iOL Creed Humphrey

We know that Eric DeCosta and crew love their offensive Sooners, from Hollywood Brown to Mark Andrews to Ben Powers to Orlando Brown Jr. With Ronnie Stanley and Zeus Junior setting the tone as bookends for the next several years, the Ravens could afford to bolster the interior between them. Bradley Bozeman has proven to be an above-average NFL guard, but the right guard position remains in flux and Matt Skura is an average center coming off a season-ending injury.

31. San Francisco 49ers – Pittsburgh S Paris Ford

The 49ers have needs at corner -- with Richard Sherman nearing retirement, Emmanuel Moseley set to be an exclusive rights free agent, and Ahkello Witherspoon remaining inconsistent -- and safety. They’ll wait on corner for now and pop Ford, a former corner-turned-safety who plays with a gladiator ethos. Ford will improve coverage and bring plenty of energy.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Ohio State iOL Wyatt Davis

Davis is going to give Creed Humphrey a run for his iOL1 money. By PFF grading, Davis was superior in every metric of the game last fall. A pulverizer in the run game who also didn’t surrender so much as one quarterback hit in over 400 pass-pro reps in 2019, Davis will start immediately in 2021 for whichever team drafts him in April.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!