If you were put in charge of the Washington Football Team's draft strategy for the 2021 NFL Draft, how would you go about it? Would there be trades? Are you staying put at No. 19? And what positions are of priority?
All are tough questions but ones that NBC Sports Washington's Pete Hailey, Ethan Cadeaux and Ryan Homler set out to try and answer. Throughout the week the group has put out different styles of mocks through PFF's simulator, looking at drafts based on best-player available, highest upside and speed.
Now, it's all about trying to get the best haul. Those attributes may factor into decisions, but rather than sticking with that theme throughout, the main focus is to put together what each feels is the best possible draft for Washington given the variables.
Without further ado, here's a look at how the three mock drafts played out:
Pete Hailey's Mock Draft
- Grabbing Moehrig at 19 is a selection that looks good now and can really look good in a year or so. The TCU safety’s strengths come in coverage, as scouts love his ability to make a difference deep down in the field with interceptions and pass breakups. Therefore, he’d be the perfect counterpart to Kam Curl and Landon Collins in 2021, and if Collins gets released next offseason — it’s the first part of his contract where that’s really possible — Curl and Moehrig have the looks of a seriously good (and young) safety pairing for the long-term future.
- It would’ve been awesome to land a left tackle in either the second or third round, but Jabril Cox, Jamin Davis and Davis Mills felt like the way to go at each spot as opposed to any of the linemen that were available. Cox and Davis are both rangy, explosive guys who could benefit from the tutelage of Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio and emerge as big-time contributors at linebacker. As for Mills, his numbers at Stanford are underwhelming but there is a lot to like about his tools, and with Ryan Fitzpatrick in place for this season, Mills could come along at a relaxed pace as a rookie and maybe (maybe!) turn into something under center after Fitzy departs.
- Tay Gowan doesn’t have a lot of college tape, seeing as he was a JUCO corner before arriving at UCF, but even so, his athleticism and size is immediately evident in that limited tape. Rivera is known as a cornerback whisperer of sorts, so snagging Gowan and letting him work under Rivera was too tantalizing to pass up.
- Tommy Tremble, the Notre Dame tight end, is both powerful as a blocker and potentially dynamic as a receiver. With Logan Thomas entrenched as the starter, Tremble and the recently-signed Chilean prospect Sammis Reyes can try to grow with renowned position coach Pete Hoener. At worst, Tremble can impact games by getting a hold of his opponents at the lime of scrimmage, and at best, he can become a legitimate target for deeper passes.
Ethan Cadeaux's Mock Draft
- Washington finds its franchise quarterback of the future by trading up 12 spots with the Lions to take Trey Lance, a player who the Burgundy and Gold reportedly really like. In this deal, Washington only had to mortgage a 2022 first-rounder along with No. 19 this year, a deal that I believe Ron Rivera and his staff would take in real life if the Lions offered it. It's also worth noting that this trade was NOT forced through the simulation; it was offered to Detroit and they accepted it.
- At No. 51, Washington selects a linebacker in Jabril Cox who has exceptional speed and can play sideline to sideline. Cox did not run at LSU's Pro Day last month but will run in front of scouts on April 26, two days before the draft. The linebacker says he's aiming to run in the 4.4-4.5 range, and if he does, Washington will have gotten a great value pick here in the second round.
- The third-round selection of Jamar Johnson was another pick I believe Jack Del Rio will love. Although listed as a safety, Johnson is quite versatile -- he can play linebacker as well and was recruited out of high school as a cornerback. After running a sub-4.6 at his Pro Day, the Indiana product has quickly seen his stock rise. In Washington, Del Rio could deploy Johnson all over the field in a hybrid role.
- At No. 82, I went best tackle available in BYU's Brady Christensen. Sure, it could be considered a reach (PFF thinks so based on its C+ grade of the pick), but Christensen graded out as one of the best tackles in all of college football last season. At 6-foot-6, 300 lbs. and a frame to add on even more weight should he choose to, Christensen should have a long NFL career in front of him.
- With pick No. 124, the Jamin Davis selection was a no-brainer, even already having addressed the position in the draft. Davis has seen his stock rise significantly over the past few weeks and has even gone as a first-rounder in some mock drafts, including longtime ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's. With Davis still on the board here, the pick was easy for Washington.
- The selections of Simi Fehoko out of Stanford and Elijah Mitchell out of Louisiana were two picks I also made in my all-speed mock. Both players ran a sub-4.4 at their respective Pro Days and look even faster on tape. While Fehoko might be a bit raw and Mitchell's role not necessarily clear in Washington, both could be key features to the team's offense down the line, if not sooner.
Ryan Homler's Mock Draft
- That's right, a trade-up for Kyle Pitts. Not only that, but a trade with a division rival to get it done. Obviously, in the real world, this is most likely not happening, but this simulator said yes and that's good enough for me. Pitts was sitting there at No. 10 which is a significant slip given his talent and where he could go, and with all the top quarterbacks already off the board, it made sense to pull the trigger. Especially because all it took was swapping 2021 first-round picks and throwing in Washington's third-round pick in 2022. PFF doesn't love that trade but I do. Washington now has a generational talent at tight end and someone that can dominate anywhere on the field. Can't ask for much more than that in the first round.
- The next two picks were identical to Ethan, and Pete also had Cox going in the second round, and that's all logic that is easy to agree with. Cox is an upside play with explosive tendencies who could make a major impact at a position of need in Washington, while Johnson is a welcomed addition to the secondary but also a sure tackler who can find success in run coverage and pass rush off the blitz.
- Davis is another player all three grabbed, though in different rounds. Linebacker is a spot in Washington that would benefit from having more than one option to evaluate for the future and the Kentucky product has seen his draft stock rise. Pairing him with Cox gives Rivera and Del Rio two great options to potentially anchor the middle of the field for years to come.
- With linebacker and tight end now covered, it was time to shift to another position of need in Washington: offensive line. At this point, the top tackles are gone and it's time to take somewhat of a gamble and hope it pays off. Hainsey was a solid right tackle during his time at Notre Dame, and while many don't expect to see him stay there in the NFL, he has the size and power to be productive along the offensive front even if it comes at guard.
- The last three picks are upside plays with the hope that contributions can come in the future. Fehoko has a 6'4" frame and ran a sub 4.40 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. That right there is attractive enough, and his physical style of play could make him a solid outside option in the red zone and as a deep threat for Washington. Johnson has been unable to live up to a great 2018 campaign at Colorado but he's someone who disrupts the game and competes hard every snap despite being somewhat undersized for his position. With all the talent Washington has at this position it's okay to take a risk and see if he can recapture his 2018 self. As for Rountree, there's no real positional fit with Gibson and McKissic leading the charge at running back, but he's a talented runner who could emerge as a No. 3 option to help take the load off the other two.