Kevin Hanson's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 6.0
BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Thursday, April 1st
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It seems like it happens much more often than it actually does.
In fact, the last time it happened was five years ago and it has only happened a total of seven times since 1970.
The last time that two quarterbacks were selected to start a draft was the 2016 NFL Draft when the Rams and Eagles made Jared Goff and Carson Wentz the top two picks, respectively. (Coincidentally, both were traded this offseason.)
Since 1970, the table below lists the number of consecutive quarterbacks selected to start a given year's draft.
|# of QBs||# of Drafts||Pct. of Drafts|
* Note: All subsets are included. In other words, there were seven times the draft started QB-QB and of those seven QB-QB starts, two of those actually began QB-QB-QB.
Someone should have asked Urban Meyer, would he have taken the gig at the Jags if Lawrence stayed in school--that answer would have been no. Why are we playing games? It's Lawrence, Wilson and Jones, and now the Falcons are on the clock.— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) March 30, 2021
Whether or not Lombardi is right about the specific quarterback (Mac Jones) at No. 3, we know that the 49ers have traded up to draft a QB and we are all but guaranteed to start the 2021 draft with three consecutive quarterbacks for the third time since 1970.
Will this be the first draft ever to start with four consecutive quarterbacks?
NFL Mock Draft - Round 1
Over the past decade, no team has won fewer games than the Jaguars (44), but their first No. 1 overall pick in Jacksonville Jaguars draft history coincides with the availability of the best quarterback prospect to enter the league since Andrew Luck. Not only do the Jaguars have the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback at No. 1, but they have a treasure trove of draft capital (multiple picks in four of the first five rounds) and salary-cap space (league-high per Over the Cap).
Enjoying a pre-draft rise similar to that of Joe Burrow last year, Wilson uses his athleticism to make and extend plays and is especially accurate throwing downfield. Appearing on the Dan Patrick Show, Chris Simms said, "I'm blown away by Zach Wilson, Dan. You know I look at it, and look at, and say this is an Aaron Rodgers, a Patrick Mahomes, Brett Favre-ish type guy."
While Simms is the outlier in ranking Wilson over Lawrence, one thing is a virtual lock -- Lawrence-Wilson will go 1-2 to kick off the 2021 NFL Draft.
In my 2021 NFL Mock Draft 5.0, I projected a 49ers trade up so that they wouldn't miss out on one of the top-five quarterbacks. While I projected a trade up to No. 7 to get in front of the Panthers, the 49ers pushed their chips into the middle of the table in a more aggressive jump up to No. 3.
Almost universally, Trevor Lawrence is the QB1. As noted with the Jets pick, Chris Simms is a notable trend-bucker with Zach Wilson as his QB1. Not everyone has Lawrence or Wilson as their QB1, though. Former NFL head coach June Jones ranks (Mac) Jones as his QB1.
Taking the reigns from Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in 2020, Jones really hit the ground running in 2020 as he completed 77.4% of his pass attempts and threw for 4,500 yards (11.2 Y/A), 41 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. While Jones may lack the elite arm strength and athleticism that the other top-four quarterback prospects possess, he makes quick reads and throws with outstanding accuracy and touch.
Reading up on Bama QB Mac Jones, fascinating background. As a scout team QB in one prax he kept throwing TD bombs against the 1st team D. Saban told him to cut it out. His response? “ Tell your defense to stop it”— trey wingo (@wingoz) March 27, 2021
Could we get the first-ever QB-QB-QB-QB start to an NFL Draft? Based on my mock, the answer is yes.
It was an up-and-down season for Fields, but he showed tremendous leadership and toughness in the semifinal win over Clemson as he threw for 385 yards and six touchowns in that game. A two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, the dual-threat quarterback has accounted for 78 total touchdowns -- 63 passing and 15 rushing -- while throwing only nine interceptions over 22 games as Ohio State's starter. Fields, who is from the Atlanta area, would have the opportunity to learn behind Matt Ryan in 2021 and potentially allow the franchise to switch gears in 2022.
MORE: Our way-too-early 2022 NFL Mock Draft
After selecting Joe Burrow first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals would be in an ideal situation if this year's draft begins with an unprecedented selection of four quarterbacks to start the draft. Could they auction this pick off to Carolina or Denver, who may be willing to move up a few spots to draft Trey Lance?
If not, they have their choice of non-QB prospects and I could see them either reuniting Burrow with Ja'Marr Chase or drafting Sewell. Fortunately for the Bengals, deep and talented wide receiver and offensive tackle classes should provide values at both positions for their second-round pick (No. 38).
The Bengals have begun the process of upgrading their offensive line by signing Riley Reiff, but it's only a one-year deal for the 32-year-old tackle and that shouldn't preclude them from selecting an elite prospect like Sewell here. While Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, the 2019 first-team AP All-American was dominant in his true-sophomore campaign and won't turn 21 until October. Sewell is the No. 2 prospect on our 2021 NFL Draft Big Board.
What brilliant draft-board maneuvering by the Dolphins! After moving back (and then up) to No. 6, they get the guy they most likely would have targeted at No. 3 while banking future high picks in the process. Provided four quarterbacks kick off the draft, the Dolphins would be guaranteed one of Penei Sewell or Chase and would likely be happy in either scenario.
Opting out in 2020, Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff Award recipient, would have been the WR1 had he been eligible to join last year's talent-laden crop of wide receivers. As a true sophomore and a 19-year-old, Chase dominated SEC competition to the tune of 84 receptions for 1,780 yards (21.2 Y/R) and 20 touchdowns. Not only did he lead the country in yardage and touchdowns, no receiver had more 15-yard receptions (46) or 25-yard receptions (25) than Chase in 2019.
Ideally, Broncos GM George Paton (or a GM of another team) will call the Lions in hopes of getting in front of the Panthers for Trey Lance. Based on the NFL draft value trade chart, the difference between the No. 7 and No. 9 pick is 150 points (or comparable to a third-rounder).
Not the biggest receiver, Waddle is one of the most explosive athletes in the draft and extremely dynamic in the open field. With Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs off to the NFL, Waddle started the year with four 100-yard games before breaking his ankle. In fact, Waddle (557 receiving yards) outproduced (the eventual Heisman Trophy winner) DeVonta Smith (483) through the first four games of the season.
Based on this mock, the Panthers draft a high-upside prospect that could sit behind Teddy Bridgewater for a year (or even two, if necessary).
While Lance is making the jump from 17 games -- including only one in 2020 -- against FCS-level competition, the dual-threat quarterback accounted for 48 touchdowns -- 30 passing and 18 rushing -- and threw only one interception in his collegiate career. Based on his natural tools, one could argue that Lance has as much upside as any quarterback in this draft class.
As noted earlier, the Broncos would be wise to move up (at least two spots) to get in front of the Panthers for Lance's services. As Brendan Donahue notes in his mock draft, the Broncos have "one of the most talented rosters on offense and the only thing holding them back was their inconsistent QB play."
If the top-five quarterbacks are off the board before the Broncos pick (as they are in this mock), Parsons would make sense here. The 2019 first-team AP All-American is a versatile, three-down linebacker that uses his athleticism, length and instincts to impact the game against the run, in coverage and as a blitzer.
The Cowboys lost Chidobe Awuzie in free agency, but re-signed Jourdan Lewis to a three-year deal. Even though Caleb Farley is expected to be ready for the start of training camp, his recent back surgery and overall injury history could mean that Surtain (or Jaycee Horn) will be the CB1 in four weeks.
The Cowboys had the 11th-ranked pass defense (227.6 YPG allowed) in 2020, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that only the Patriots (494) faced fewer pass attempts than the Cowboys (513). Only three teams allowed a worse TD-to-INT ratio than the Cowboys (3.4 TD:INT) and only the Lions (1 TD/14.66 Att.) surrendered a passing touchdown per fewer pass attempts than the Cowboys secondary (15.09).
Long story short, this pick is likely to be a cornerback especially if the Cowboys have their choice at the position. The 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Surtain II has an NFL pedigree (father was a three-time Pro Bowl CB that also coached him in high school) with outstanding size (6-2, 202) and length that new coordinator Dan Quinn will covet.
One of the bigger spenders in free agency, the Giants extended Leonard Williams after designating him with the franchise tag and signed Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson to multiple-year contracts. If the top 10 plays out this way, the pick may come down to Florida's Kyle Pitts, Alabama's DeVonta Smith or Slater. All three offensive prospects are in the top 10 of my 2021 NFL Draft Big Board.
Slater's critics may point to his lack of size and length, but if you watch Slater's tape against (former) Ohio State (and current WFT) edge rusher Chase Young, it's easy to project his ability to hold his own outside against NFL-caliber edge rushers.
In previous iterations of my 2021 NFL mock draft, the Eagles selected Kyle Pitts or DeVonta Smith at No. 6. Neither may last until No. 12, but the Eagles' brass would be thrilled if both were available here after acquiring a 2022 first-rounder and improving a fifth-round pick to a fourth-rounder this year.
A playmaker in the mold of Darren Waller, the 20-year-old Pitts won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, as he finished the abbreviated 2020 season with 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Kyle Pitts measured with a wingspan of 83 3/8"— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 31, 2021
Largest of any tight end in the last 20 years🤯 pic.twitter.com/BvIdudqSjC
The Chargers hit a home run with Justin Herbert, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but the team's offensive line has been a perennial issue. In fact, no team ranked lower than the Chargers (32nd) in PFF's end-of-season offensive line rankings.
Signing Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi in free agency is a good start to address the problem. In a strong offensive tackle class, it wouldn't be a surprise if they used this pick (or their second-rounder) on a tackle. With Rashawn Slater already off the board, the Chargers get a three-year starter that had his best season as a junior and is especially dominant as a run blocker.
Trading for Yannick Ngakoue before the 2020 season, the Vikings should have had a dynamic 1-2 pass-rush duo with Danielle Hunter and Ngakoue. Not only did Hunter miss all of 2020, but the Vikings traded away Ngakoue only six games into his Minnesota tenure. Even so, the short-term Viking still led the team with five sacks. Meanwhile, Hunter is unhappy with his current contract.
It was an unorthodox journey for Phillips from the nation's top high school recruit to potential first-round pick. After briefly retiring from football and transferring to Miami from UCLA, everything came together for the gifted edge rusher as he recorded eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss over 10 games in his lone season in Coral Gables.
Bill Belichick went on a shopping spree in free agency that included some WR2/WR3 types, but Smith would immediately become the team's most talented receiver. An outstanding route-runner, the sure-handed receiver has been been uber-productive over the past two years. If Smith had declared last year, he would have joined Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy as first-round receivers. This year, he'll join teammate Jaylen Waddle as a first-rounder.
Despite the star-studded receiving corps, it was Smith that led the team in receiving yards (1,256) and touchdowns (14) last season. This year, the Heisman Trophy winner really stepped up with the injury to Waddle and led the FBS in receptions (117) and yards (1,856) and was second in touchdowns (23).
With Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Johnathan Joseph no longer on the roster, the Cardinals have signed Malcolm Butler and (cut and then) re-signed Robert Alford to one-year deals. In other words, cornerback remains one of the team's bigger needs heading into the draft.
Especially given the Stephon Gilmore rumors that have circulated in Foxboro, it wouldn't surprise me if Horn went off the board a pick earlier than this. (And interestingly enough, the 49ers trade up to No. 3 allows the Cards to get their man as he likely would have been their non-QB pick if they stayed at No. 12.)
The son of former Pro Bowl receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee excels in press-man coverage due to his size, physical playing style and competitive demeanor. He helped his case with a strong performance at South Carolina's Pro Day -- 4.39 forty, 41.5" vertical and 11'1" broad jump.
Continue to 2021 NFL Mock Draft 6.0: Picks 17-32
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