Seaside NFL Draft Thoughts, picks 1-16
Analyzing the first 16 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft
NFL Draft Thoughts
I’m going to go down the draft order here and give thoughts on each team. It turned out to be a long post, so I am splitting it up into two parts.
I keep forgetting that TRENT BAALKE is the new GM of the Jaguars. And he has the number one pick. Here’s a breakdown of Baalke’s draft history from his time with the 49ers. Essentially: he liked defensive players and experienced players early in the draft. We know that Trevor Lawrence is 1.1. I think that Jacksonville might feel compelled to move up from 25 or 33 given their overstock of draft picks this year. At the least, I’d expect a move back into the first round to give them three in total. Jaelan Phillips makes a lot of sense to me. Baalke was FIRED from his last job though, maybe he does things differently. Baalke has traded up numerous times, including for Colin Kaepernick.
Most people are guessing defense for the Jets’ second first round pick. It’s hard to disagree with any pick because New York has every need. The Jets also have picks 34, 66, 86, and 107 though, so there are five chances between Zach Wilson and the fourth round to add defensive talent. Given that this is an offensive first round, and that Lamical Perine or Tevin Coleman is the starting running back, I think Najee Harris or Travis Etienne could be bold picks that immediately help the rookie quarterback. Or a tackle like Liam Eichenberg, Alex Leatherwood, anybody to succeed George Fant. Or trade all the way up for Alijah Vera-Tucker. Or Rashod Bateman and Kadarius Toney and Elijah Moore could be on the board still. I don’t know why I even care, but get Wilson more help.
We know that I’ve been on Mac Jones Alley since Klump Street. (Here’s another reason that SF could have Mac Jones rated higher than 95-percent of media: The 49ers were willing to draft Reuben Foster with the third overall pick back in 2017. They eventually got him in the second round. That’s where John Lynch had rated Foster but he fell an entire round. Mac Jones is the pick.)
Falcons GM Terry Fontenot is another guy we have no intel on yet. The Julio Jones trade rumors feel like Julio Jones trade buildup. Something to soften the blow. Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst are capable options for Matt Ryan, but if Jones isn’t there, you’d think that Ja’Marr Chase will be. Or it’s just a ploy to get a team to believe that Atlanta will draft Chase or Kyle Pitts and to trade up to four, which I think is all that Fontenot wants. It doesn’t necessarily stop the Falcons from drafting DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle or Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore.
Gut feeling on the Bengals is that they’re only choosing between Chase and Penei Sewell if both are on the board at five. Maybe someone makes the choice for them. I think they’d prefer Chase. Bengals owner/GM Mike Brown has traded down in the first round twice since 2012: the first time he landed Kevin Zeitler, the second time he got stuck with Billy Price — and veteran Cordy Glenn. I’m not saying it is likely that Cincinnati will trade down, but I don’t know why we’re leaving them out of the conversation to do so. Spot five is an important one. (Despite the fact that he’s helping to ruin the sport with PFF, I like Cris Collinsworth. Here’s a story on how he was the Bengals’ second WR drafted in 1981 when Cincy took him with the 37th overall pick, obviously doing much better in his career than top pick David Verser.)
The Dolphins traded up to six, but in a sense they actually traded up to three. It was almost like they never moved at all if you remove the quarterbacks from the equation: QB-QB-QB, a position Miami doesn’t feel they need right now, is the top three picks. Now they sit at six, behind ATL and CIN, so as long as they had three top-rated prospects that they would have loved to get at three, MIA is in the same position as they were before but now they have an extra future first round pick. Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts or Penei Sewell is the obvious trio but not every team has Sewell as OL1. (Sometimes I am like, “Well, the Dolphins should do this!” and then I have to remind myself that Miami selected Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in 2020. I wouldn’t have picked Tua in the first round. It doesn’t matter if I would have picked Justin Herbert, I definitely would not have picked Tua. So while I want to say, “Miami is gonna do this because it’s what is logical,” it doesn’t mean that me and GM Chris Grier agree on “logic.”)
Unless Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts is on the board, the Lions almost certainly will do everything in their power to trade down. Yes, Detroit chose T.J. Hockenson two years ago, but Pitts’ development might go even better if he’s given opportunities to fail and succeed as a second option in the first two years than if he’s asked to carry a team’s offense. The Lions won’t win any games next season, but they need to start building an elite offense for the QB they draft in 2022 or 2023. Pitts would be able to move around in space and probably catch a ton of balls next season in Detroit, as their top wideouts are Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Quintez Cephus. The hope is for Chase, but Pitts is basically a receiver and he’s so young that there’s no reason to push him into action as TE1 on the wrong offense. This is a lot of writing for a player who will be off the board by six.
I think every time we hear that there are a bunch of teams that “want to trade down” it’s a sign that nobody will. Do they have teams that want to move up? That’s the issue. Because the 49ers just traded two future first round picks for the right to select the number three quarterback in the draft, so what is the asking price for the number four QB, or a tight end, or a receiver, or a cornerback? A future first round pick? Next year’s draft looks a hell of a lot better than this year’s draft. I really doubt that Bill Belichick or Jon Gruden want to be without a first round pick in 2022. But Ryan Pace? He must know that his Bears career is on thin ice. Chicago-to-Carolina is one that is stuck in my head.
If the Panthers don’t trade down, I will mark them down as a team that could prevent a Micah Parsons slide. Another new general manager, Scott Fitterer got many interviews over his years with the Seahawks. We can assume that he’ll operate similar to Pete and John, but we should know that he’s going to do things his own way. But Carolina is kind of a “linebacker team” and it’s been six years since they used a first on Shaq Thompson. Maybe Fitterer gets his trade down and gets his linebacker.
The Broncos want a quarterback, they just don’t want the fourth or fifth-best quarterback in this draft. The idea that there are going to be five franchise quarterbacks in this draft is absurd. NFL teams might not accurately guess which two or three of these prospects become decent starters or stars, but they do know that it is rarely the fourth or fifth-best quarterback in a class. An overall weak 2021 NFL Draft class at that. Denver won’t get the talent at offensive line or cornerback in the second round like they’d get in the top-ten. If the Bears trade up for Fields and keep Parsons on the board, he’s sensible here. I guess this morning I’m just skeptical of a Micah Parsons slide. I know he has been marked with “off field issues” and that has led to a lot of draft slides, and this is an even tougher year to get to know a prospect, but I don’t think teams watched Devin White in the playoffs and didn’t wish they had that kind of speed at inside linebacker. Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Micah Parsons…Denver will trade for Jimmy Garoppolo on the condition of a paycut.
Everyone is saying that the Cowboys will take Patrick Surtain II and I’ll agree with that but if the Patriots do trade over them for him, then I think Rashawn Slater is definitely an option if they’re not as comfortable with Jaycee Horn as they are with Surtain.
How many years in a row can Dave Gettleman draft offense with his first pick? The Giants’ linebackers are Ryan Anderson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Lorenzo Carter, and Blake Martinez. Another reason I am not sure I agree Parsons is falling. Really, just choose any front-seven prospect or on the other hand it could be DeVonta Smith.
I want to say that the Eagles at 12 is the floor for Alijah Vera-Tucker. His versatility would be extra attractive to Philadelphia. But goal for Howie Roseman is to convince teams he’ll draft whoever the best player on the board is at this point — that’s one explanation for why the Eagles have been openly trying to connect themselves to any position, including QB. I’d try to identify a team that wants to jump over the Chargers and Vikings for an offensive lineman — Christian Darrisaw, Slater, Vera-Tucker all possibilities — and to me that’s the Raiders, Dolphins, or Bears if they haven’t dealt up already.
If the Chargers didn’t already trade up for an offensive lineman, they’ll want to trade down. If I’m right about a team trading over them for an offensive lineman though, it might be difficult to find a trade partner. The best remaining OL is fair but the last skill player Tom Telesco drafted in the first round was Mike Williams in 2017. Williams is a free agent in 2022 and the Chargers have a major hole at running back, in my opinion. Put LA in the category of “Najee Harris and Travis Etienne market” for me. Telesco picked Melvin Gordon 15th overall in 2015.
The Vikings almost certainly want Alijah Vera-Tucker and all the noise about Tucker going early could just be to get a team like Minnesota to bite on an overpay trade. If they don’t trade and if Vera-Tucker is gone, then the top player on either their OL or DE board should be headed to the Vikings: Darrisaw, Jaelan Phillips, Kwity Paye, Azeez Ojulari…
So yeah, I could see the Patriots trading up for Surtain or Horn or Parsons but I’m not sold on the idea that a quarterback is anywhere in Bill Belichick’s plan for Thursday unless it’s a trade for Garoppolo. But New England doesn’t have a third round pick because of cheating, so Belichick will almost certainly trade back. Who would want to move up and for what position? Consider the receiver market at this point: Chase is gone. Are Jaylen Waddle and Smith gone? Let’s say the Lions chose Waddle, the Giants chose Smith. Lots of heat that Arizona is drafting a receiver (more on that momentarily) and you could argue a run on the position starts at 15. Doesn’t make sense to me that the Raiders would be interested in Elijah Moore, but if Waddle or Smith fell, would Grayock feel compelled to give up one of their extra third rounders to the Patriots? Yes, I think Grayock would.
Finally, for the first half of the first round, it’s the Arizona Cardinals. Rumors point them towards a trade up for a receiver or taking the best receiver at 16. Isn’t it starting to get absurd for you, Steve Keim? Christian Kirk in round two in 2018; Andy Isabella in round two in 2019; trade a second round pick for DeAndre Hopkins in 2020; sign A.J. Green in 2021. Yeah, they could do it, and if they do, the defense loses a chance to get more talented. Isaiah Simmons is the only player in the Cardinals defense who was drafted by Arizona in the first round and he has yet to prove if that was a good choice or not. If I did a mock right now, I would lean towards giving the Cardinals Caleb Farley, Christian Barmore, Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah, and a surprise for you to consider: Trevon Moehrig. But I don’t think offense is necessarily the answer for Arizona this time.
Okay, that turned out longer than I expected so I’ll post part 2 later today.