The 2021 NFL draft may be months away, but perhaps the biggest pre-draft of this cycle is in the books: The 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. With the NFL canceling the scouting combine, the Senior Bowl will be the only centralized scouting event prior to the draft. Pro days will still take place, but without the combine, teams are going to have to trust the individual events and not the standardized testing the combine offers.
That being said, did the Senior Bowl really change anything? We won’t know for sure in a few months, but that does not mean we can try to answer that question through everyone’s favorite medium: The mock draft. Here is Touchdown Wire’s Mock Draft 2.0.
*Note: The current draft order is set through the Buffalo Bills at 30. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are picking in the 31st spot as the Kansas City Chiefs, picking at 32, are favored in Super Bowl LV.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have their head coach now in Urban Meyer. Now they add the quarterback to the mix. For what seems like years now Trevor Lawrence has been viewed as the eventual first-overall selection, and in a few months that will become a reality. Is Lawrence the generational prospect he has been made out to be? Perhaps not. Is he still the best quarterback in this class? Absolutely. Jacksonville should not hesitate with the selection.
New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
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With the New York Jets hiring Robert Saleh as their next head coach, and adding coaches on the offensive side of the ball such as Mike LaFleur as their next offensive coordinator and John Benton as their offensive line coach/running game coordinator, you could make the case that the organization is putting the pieces in place to construct a quarterback-friendly offense around Sam Darnold with the hopes of building around him. Or they could be assembling the means to prop up a rookie. Assuming they go the rookie route, Zach Wilson from BYU is perhaps an ideal system for this kind of offense. His arm talent and athleticism are ideal for this system, and with the draft capital the Jets have in place they can made additions around Wilson and put him in a position to be successful.
Houston Texans (via Miami Dolphins): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
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Trade terms between the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans: Houston sends Deshaun Watson and a 2022 third-round pick Miami sends pick 3, pick 18, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 second-round pick, and Tua Tagovailoa Here we go… With the news that Deshaun Watson has officially requested a trade from the Houston Texans, finding a trading partner for them has become something of a cottage industry in recent days. One of the teams that has consistently been linked with the Texans is the Miami Dolphins. After missing out on the playoffs a season ago Miami is obviously close to contending, but they need consistency at the quarterback position. Watson would be a huge get for them, and they have the means to make such a move given the draft capital in place. From Houston’s perspective, now that they have acquired a young quarterback in Tagovailoa they need to add around him. They do that in drafting Ja’Marr Chase, a talented wide receiver who opted-out this past season. So while they lose an elite talent at the QB position, they add a young quarterback to develop and replace a ton of draft capital they lost over the past few years…including in some trades with the Dolphins.
Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
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The hiring of Arthur Smith bodes well, at least in my mind, for the tail end of Matt Ryan’s career. I would expect to see a lot of the schematic elements that have put Ryan Tannehill in a position to succeed being used with Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons’ roster. But when you have a chance to draft a quarterback early in the first round, you should take advantage of that opportunity. Justin Fields faces some questions, as some view him as a first-read QB only, but from where I sit Fields an make all the throws, can make all the reads, and has the athleticism that is non-negotiable to succeed in the NFL today.
Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
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This is what I wrote in Mock Draft 1.0:
The Cincinnati Bengals made Joe Burrow the face and the future of their franchise last season. But they could not protect him. So it makes a great deal of sense to find someone who can. Even though a few recent wins have the Bengals sliding down a few spots in the draft, with the way the board falls they still see the top tackle in this class drop into their lap. They should run to the podium in this scenario.
Nothing has changed. Run to the podium Cincinnati, now you can protect your young quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
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With the hiring of Nick Sirianni you might expect the Philadelphia Eagles to address the offensive side of the ball, perhaps with a weapon in the passing game like DeVonta Smth or Jayden Waddle. But with the hire of Jonathan Gannon as their new defensive coordinator, the Eagles are expected to be more of a Cover-2 team in the year ahead. Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II is perhaps an ideal fit for this scheme. Surtain has good man coverage skills and comes from a system that asks a lot of its players in the secondary. If there are questions on Surtain they come from what he can do downfield and in terms of giving up throws in the deeper areas of the field. In a Cover-2 system, he’ll have dedicated safety help to protect him downfield.
Detroit Lions: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
(AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
But Mark, they have Matthew Stafford? We’ll get to that. Assuming the Detroit Lions have a need at the quarterback position, they will need to address that spot with this selection. Trey Lance checks a lot of the boxes you look for in a prospect at the QB position, including arm talent, athleticism, and scheme fit. A word of caution: If and when you start to study Lance yourself, it would be wise to remember that in the Bison offense, throwing to the fullback out of the backfield is usually graded as the right move, so you if you find yourself starting to criticize him for “checking down too much,” keep that in mind. In Lance, the Lions find a quarterback who can start soon in Anthony Lynn’s system, perhaps sooner than you might think.
Carolina Panthers: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
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Having missed out on the run of quarterbacks, the Carolina Panthers are forced to shift gears with this selection. They turn to the defensive side of the football, and try and add some athleticism and pass-rushing prowess to the Panthers’ defense. He was asked to do a lot in Notre Dame’s defense, from playing in space to playing in the box and even on the edge. He is athletic enough to handle man coverage responsibilities and can even be an effective pass rusher on blitzes and as an edge player. Some might be wary of his side if they view him as a traditional off-ball linebacker, but his athleticism and versatility make him a fit for modern NFL thinking on the defensive side of the ball. Paring him with Brian Burns gives Phil Snow the ability to pressure opponent passers in a variety of ways.
Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
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The future of Drew Lock remains up in the high altitude of the Denver skyline, but with Denver missing out on the big four quarterbacks they too need to change directions. Like the Carolina Panthers before them, the Broncos and their new general manager George Paton turn to the defensive side of the football. Adding a cornerback to their secondary is a way to address that unit. A.J. Bouye and Michael Ojemudia provide the Broncos with two solid options, but in today’s NFL you can never have enough cornerbacks, and with the prevalence of 11 personnel you need three top-end cornerbacks. Adding a man coverage corner to give them versatility in the secondary would be huge for 2021, and they’ll get that in Caleb Farley. He has the length and the coverage skills to be a lockdown player in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
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One of the issues that plagued the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 – beyond the loss of Dak Prescott to injury – was injuries and inconsistencies on the offensive line. Dallas lost Tyron Smith to injury, and had some woes in the interior of the line as well. Assuming they bring Prescott back and do not need to shop around for a quarterback with this pick, the Cowboys can turn their focus to protecting their franchise QB. Adding Rashawn Slater fills needs for the organization up front. Slater was the right tackle for Northwestern his first two years on campus, but then kicked to the left side in 2019 and showed great potential on that side. Slater opted out of the 2020 season, but that has not stopped him from remaining near the top of the offensive tackle class. He can also be viewed as someone who could contribute in the interior, so if Dallas was able to rely on both Smith and Zack Martin at the tackle spots they could slide Slater inside to start his career. This pick gives Dallas a lot of options with the offensive line heading into the 2021 season.
New York Giants: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
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Patrick Graham relied on sub packages and creativity to generate pressure on opponent passers this season. Now he can add an EDGE who can generate pressure by winning one-on-one opportunities. Kwity Paye is explosive and athletic, and if you have not seen the video of his three-cone drill, make sure to stop and watch it the next time it floats around on your timeline. That kind of athleticism and cornering skills gives Graham some much-needed flexibility up front for next season.
Detroit Lions (via San Francisco 49ers): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
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Trade terms between the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions: Detroit sends Matthew Stafford San Francisco sends pick 12 and a 2022 first-round selection We have our second quarterback trade, although you probably guessed this was coming given what the Lions did with their pick in the seventh spot. Now that Stafford and Detroit have “mutually agreed to part ways,” the Lions are in position to perhaps accumulate additional draft picks and build around a new quarterback. They got that player earlier in Trey Lance, and now they add a weapon for him in Jaylen Waddle. With questions about Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, wide receiver is a position of need. Some might wonder about DeVonta Smith at this pint, and that is a fair question. Waddle’s teammate certainly has the production – and a Heisman Trophy to match – but Waddle could be the more complete prospect. Smith’s frame is going to scare some teams away, as the list of elite wideouts that weigh under 175 pounds is not exactly long. That is why Smith’s measurements at the Alabama Pro Day are going to be critical. With Waddle, the Lions get an explosive threat with a more NFL-ready frame, and a weapon for their new QB. Just go watch his game against Missouri from this past season and you will be a believer too.
Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
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The Los Angeles Chargers have their new head coach in Brandon Staley. They have their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. Now they get a key piece to protect him. Darrisaw made the decision to play this season and not opt-out, and he is likely glad that he did. The Virginia Tech lineman showed true talent and growth this past season. He was a starter almost immediately upon arriving at Blacksburg and has shown technical and physical growth during his entire time on campus. He was dominant at times in 2020 and showed true improvement in his pass-protection skills. Pairing him with Bryan Bulaga gives the Chargers their bookend tackles to protect Herbert for years to come.
Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
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Despite having invested in the offensive line early in the past three drafts with players such as Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury and Brian O’Neill, the Minnesota Vikings do it again, selecting the versatile Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC. Vera-Tucker began his collegiate career as a guard before kicking out to left tackle this past season, and he impressed at both spots. He makes sense for the Vikings given his athleticism. Minnesota relies on the outside zone game which demands movement skills and precise footwork from linemen, and Vera-Tucker emphatically checks both of those boxes. His versatility allows the Vikings to find their best five to put up front to carve out holes for Dalvin Cook and protect Kirk Cousins.
New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
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I spent some time over the past week studying Florida’s 2020 offense, mostly to evaluate quarterback Kyle Trask and wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes. But my eyes kept drifting to #84. Something tells me that will happen to Bill Belichick as well, and while the New England Patriots certainly need to address quarterback – which might have his eyes on Trask as well – Pitts is hard to ignore. Belichick knows the value of a dangerous weapon at TE, dating back to his days with the New York Giants and Mark Bavaro, and Pitts will make life easier for their quarterback next season: Jimmy Garoppolo.
Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
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The Arizona Cardinals could go in a number of different directions with this selection. Some have linked the Cardinals with a presence off the edge, and that is exactly where I went in Mock Draft 1.0, having Arizona draft Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye. Many others have linked the Cardinals with Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, but he just came off the board to the New England Patriots in the prior selection. So as teams must, the Cardinals shift gears here and look at the secondary. With Patrick Peterson and Budda Baker Arizona has some pieces in place, but adding another coverage corner will give defensive coordinator Vance Joseph some flexibility in the secondary and the ability to perhaps play the matchup game a bit more. Jaycee Horn is a strong and long corner with some press coverage traits who began his college career playing inside before shifting to the boundary. Before his decision to opt out after playing in six games this season, Horn flashed ball skills that you want to see in a cornerback. Adding him to the mix allows Joseph to play him inside or outside depending on opponent.
Las Vegas Raiders: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
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If you do not know the name Zaven Collins by now, you need to fix that right away. The defensive standout for Tulsa is working his way up draft boards and mock drafts, and by the time the real thing rolls around, he should be known by football fans and media members alike. Tulsa used Collins in a variety of roles this season. You could see him rushing the passer on first down, defending a receiver in the slot – or even on the boundary – on second down, and perhaps spying the quarterback on third down. The Las Vegas Raiders need a lot of help on the defensive side of the football, and grabbing a player that they can use in a variety of roles would be a wise investment in the first round.
Houston Texans (via Miami Dolphins): Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
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Trade terms between the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans: Houston sends Deshaun Watson and a 2022 third-round pick Miami sends pick 3, pick 18, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 second-round pick, and Tua Tagovailoa Now the Houston Texans are back on the clock, armed with the second of the first-round selections traded to them as part of the Deshaun Watson deal. Having addressed the offense with Ja’Marr Chase in the third spot of the draft – and with Tua Tagovailoa in place as the potential quarterback for the next five years – they turn to the defensive side of the football. This was an issue all season long for the Texans, and they can help their secondary by bolstering the pass rush. Ossai is a bit of a raw prospect who has seen time both on the edge and as a weakside linebacker. He’s best when asked to put his hand in the dirt, attack off the edge and get after the quarterback. His length, athleticism and explosiveness are skills any defense can use. Pairing him with J.J. Watt goes a long way towards turning around this defense.
Washington Football Team: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
One of the clear-cut winners of Senior Bowl week is Alabama passer Mac Jones. He entered the week looking to show NFL evaluators that he could make throws into tighter windows and could play at a high level without the benefit of elite talent all around him, and he did that throughout the practices. Washington won the NFC East on the backs of their defense while starting Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen and eventually Taylor Heinicke at quarterback this season. While Heinicke flashed some promise in the Wild-Card game, the biggest need the Football Team faces is finding that stability at QB. Jones is not a perfect quarterback prospect, and Washington will need to put a good offensive line in front of him, but he goes a long way towards addressing the team’s most glaring need.
Chicago Bears: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
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Chicago Bears fans are probably hoping their favorite team somehow comes away with a quarterback in the first round. Instead they get the Heisman Trophy winner. Taking advantage of a bit of a slide, the Bears pounce and add DeVonta Smith to their wide receiver room. Smith is a supremely talented wide receiver, as you can see every time you turn on his film. The reason why he might – might – slide in this draft has nothing to do with his tape or with his production. It is all about his size. Smith did not step on a scale down in Mobile, and you can bet that during the Alabama Pro Day thousands of camera will be ready for the moment he weighs-in. Because his frame is the biggest concern he faces right now. The list of elite NFL receivers measuring over six-feet tall and around 175 pounds is not exactly long, and if that is indeed where Smith is size-wise, then the organization that drafts him is betting on something of an outlier. Teams do not often do that in the first ten picks.
Indianapolis Colts: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
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With the retirement of Anthony Castonzo, the Indianapolis Colts have a big need at tackle. Of course, they also have a glaring need at quarterback with the retirement of Philip Rivers. But with five quarterbacks off the board, the Colts turn to the offensive line and a replacement for the ten-year veteran. Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame is talented enough to slide in the the Colts’ left tackle spot on the first day of training camp. He does his best work as a run blocker in a gap/power system, and while the Colts run a lot of zone concepts, there are enough power elements to their system that make this a schematic fit in the run game. As a pass blocker, Eichenberg is technically sound with decent footwork and hand usage. He might give up pressure when facing elite rushers who win with speed around the edge, but that is an issue that many tackles have to deal with.
Tennessee Titans: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
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The Tennessee Titans cannot leave this off-season without addressing their pass rush. After recording 43 sacks in the 2019 season the organization still looked to shore up that aspect of their defense, adding Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. They recorded 19 sacks this year, third-worst in the league. Now yes, pressure is production too, but the Titans were not exactly great in that category as well. Their 119 pressures in 2020 were fifth-lowest in the NFL. So they need help, and they get that in Gregory Rousseau. After a monster season in 2019 in which he posted 15.5 sacks, many expected Rousseau to take a huge leap forward in 2020. But he chose to opt out of the season and focus on the NFL draft. Despite the time off, the production and the raw traits make him a solid option off the edge for the Titans.
New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
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Having secured the quarterback earlier in the round, the New York Jets now look to give him more weapons. With the first-round selection acquired as part of the Jamal Adams trade they do just that, adding Rashod Bateman from Minnesota. While many were watching the Golden Gophers two seasons ago for Tyler Johnson, Bateman is the cleaner NFL prospect. He has a variety of route-running skills and handles the downfield passing elements of the position quite well. He and Denzel Mims give the Jets a solid pair of weapons on the outside for their rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
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At the moment it sounds like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to return for another season, and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers do not need to force a quarterback in this spot. Plus, with the first five quarterbacks already off the board, and the organization having signed Dwayne Haskins in the off-season, they can wait until later in the draft if they want to address the position. Making sure Roethlisberger – or whoever is taking the snaps – is protected is a critical need. Adding Samuel Cosmi from Texas is a step towards achieving that goal. Texas tackle has the athleticism and foot speed to be solid in pass protection, and can handle the various rushing designs the Steelers put into action. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada is known for his presnap movement, but he utilizes both zone and power in the running game. Cosmi’s athleticism will be an asset in those zone designs.
Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): Terrence Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
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Helping young quarterbacks is something of a theme to this draft, and that emerges again with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ second pick in the first round. Thanks to the Jalen Ramsey trade they add some help for their new quarterback in the form of LSU wide receiver Terrence Marshall Jr. The LSU Tigers took a step back this season, but perhaps one of the few positives from the Tigers this year was the play of this wideout. With Justin Jefferson in the NFL and Ja’Marr Chase opting out, Marshall got the chance to shine for the Tigers’ passing game. Playing in just seven games, Marhsall set career highs in receptions and yards, and caught 10 touchdown passes. He can play on the inside and on the outside, has ideal size and technical skills, and his versatility makes him a fit in almost any offense. Pairing him with Laviska Shenault Jr. and DJ Chark gives Trevor Lawrence quite the trio of targets in the passing game.
Cleveland Browns: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
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Off-ball linebacker is a position that has seen its value diminished over the past few years, similar to the running back spot. Given the emphasis on the passing game, EDGE defenders take precedence over those that play on the second level. That means teams picking later in the first round can see tremendous talent fall to them, and that happens here for the Cleveland Browns. They have a need on the second level of their defense, and they address that with the premier off-ball LB in the class. Penn State’s Micah Parsons is an elite talent at the position and one of the best overall players in the entire class, but positional value might see him slide. If this happens the Browns should run to the podium.
Baltimore Ravens: Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
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The Baltimore Ravens need to address their pass rush, as both Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are both set for free agency. The Ravens could go with either of the talented Miami EDGE defenders in this spot, whether Jaelan Phillips or Quincy Roche. In this mock draft they go with Roche, who might have addressed some of the concerns about him this past week at the Senior Bowl. People knew that Roche could win around the edge with speed and finesse, but what stood out about his game were the moments when he won on the inside, either with power or technical skills. That was a component to his evaluation that was missing, and having checked that box against the talent down in Mobile, he slides into the first round.
New Orleans Saints: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
One of the thinner positions in this draft class, at least on the defensive side of the football, might be interior defensive line. For teams that have a glaring need at that spot – like the New Orleans Saints – they might force the to address the position earlier rather than later. The Saints have some critical decisions facing them, and they start with the status of their salary cap. That is going to take some, shall we say, strategery. After all right now they are around $110 million OVER the cap, thanks to the appropriately named site OverTheCap.com. Then there is the fact that Sheldon Rankins is entering free agency. Add the pieces together, and they might need to draft a defensive tackle. That leads them to Christian Barmore from Alabama. He is versatile enough to be used in both even and odd fronts, and gives the Saints a penetrating option on the inside to shore up their defensive front that might be a need given their cap situation.
Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Judging by his comments after the NFC Championship game, Aaron Rodgers wants some help around him next season. The Green Bay Packers look to give him that help in the form of Purdue offensive weapon Rondale Moore. Moore exploded on the national stage due to a breakout freshman season that saw him named the Paul Hornung Award winner as the most versatile player in college football. In 13 games he caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also rushing for 213 yards and two more scores. Since that year, however, Moore has struggled with injuries and appeared in just seven games. His medical evaluations are going to be critical – and might be difficult given the lack of a combine this season. Provided the Packers are satisfied with Moore from a medical perspective, he gives Rodgers that weapon on offense that he craves.
Buffalo Bills: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
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If you are picking in the 30s in the first round of the NFL draft, either you traded back in, or you are coming off a very good season. Which means you are already pretty close as a team. That is where the Buffalo Bills find themselves, fresh off a run to the AFC Championship game. But to get over the final hurdles, they need to find areas where they can improve. One is becoming a more efficient team running the football. With Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and the rest of their weapons in the passing game, Buffalo will remain a passing team. But making the most of their rushing attempts is critical. That leads us to Najee Harris. Like we discussed with Micah Parsons, running back is another position that is valued differently in the modern NFL. A decade ago? Harris might be the first-overall pick. Now? He slides into the 30s, and the Bills get a chance to immediately improve their run game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Osa Odighizuwa, IDL, UCLA
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We mentioned during the discussion of the New Orleans Saints that the interior defensive line class might be a bit thin, which could result in a team or two reaching early at the position. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could make an addition or two on the defensive line, and that brings us to Osa Odighizuwa from UCLA. The defensive lineman was one of the standout players down at Mobile, who uses a very solid week to propel him into the first round. He might look like more of an early day two selection, but given the need and the rest of the board at the position, Tampa Bay make him the pick here.
Kansas City Chiefs: Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
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No changes from Mock Draft 1.0 for the Kansas City Chiefs. As in the previous version, they take advantage of a bit of a slide from Ohio State interior offensive lineman Wyatt Davis, and grab perhaps the best interior player in the entire draft with the final pick of the first round. Davis is a day one starter at guard for the Chiefs, and can handle the variety of schemes that Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy utilize in the run game. Kansas City needs to protect Patrick Mahomes for the next decade, and Davis is a step towards achieving that goal.