The best and worst fits for SEC players who were picked in the 2021 NFL Draft
I like to be more positive than negative.
That’s why I’m not crazy about saying anyone is a “loser” after fulfilling a lifelong dream of getting drafted. There are good fits, wait-and-see fits and bad fits. Because nobody cares about “medium” in this life, we’ll focus on the good and bad.
Again, that’s not winners and losers. That’s good fits and bad fits.
Great players can be in bad fits. They could be in a spot that’ll be tough to succeed based on the depth chart, the coaching staff or just the current state of the franchise. The same could be said for the inverse. Guys can succeed based on where the depth chart, coaching staff or current state of the franchise is.
So, here are those guys:
Elijah Moore, Ole Miss WR
New team — Jets
Why it’s a good fit — I can close my eyes and see Zach Wilson scrambling to keep a play alive and him finding Moore 20 yards downfield to move the sticks. In fact, I can see that happening again, again and again. Moore is a perfect fit for a mobile quarterback like Wilson. There are a lot of similarities between Wilson and Matt Corral, who broke out in a major way with targeting Moore on seemingly every drop back. Moore should be a Day 1 starter. There’s legitimate potential for him to be the steal of the draft as the 2021 version of Justin Jefferson with his ability to line up anywhere and get separation. Moore and Wilson are going to be best friends in a hurry.
Josh Palmer, Tennessee WR
New team — Chargers
Why it’s a good fit — Imagine going from Tennessee’s quarterback situation to getting the chance to play with Justin Herbert. Palmer went from a motel to the Ritz-Carlton. Besides the better quarterback situation, think about learning route-running from a guy like Keenan Allen. Palmer has the ability to be one of those “better numbers in the NFL than in college” guys if he can continue to develop as a pass-catcher between the hashes. The fact that Palmer came off the board before UNC standout Dyami Brown was a surprise, but that tells you how much faith the Chargers have in him to contribute early on.
Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M LB
New team — Steelers
Why it’s a good fit — It seems like whenever the Steelers make a pick, we say “such a Pittsburgh guy.” And full disclaimer here, this isn’t the only Steelers mention in the “good fits” category. But Johnson playing alongside T.J. Watt and Devin Bush? What a dream scenario. That should allow Johnson to do what he does best: get downhill and pursue ball-carriers. The guy looks like he’s built out of a lab, much like Jamin Davis (more in him later), except for the fact that he’s just above 6 feet. But Johnson is going to a place where he can pin his ears back and become a tackling machine for years to come. Mike Elko approves of this pick.
Najee Harris, Alabama RB
New team — Steelers
Why it’s a good fit — I warned you that there’d be more Steelers love here. I know, I know. Drafting a running back in Round 1 isn’t great, but how can you not love Harris in Pittsburgh? That offensive line is a train wreck, which means Harris will have plenty of linebackers to hurdle over. No worries. He can do that. The Steelers traded James Conner to the Cardinals, which means it’ll be Harris and Benny Snell leading that backfield. Harris, by virtue of staying in school this past year, became such a better runner under Charles Huff. He can also catch passes at such an elite level. Harris gave Ben Roethlisberger some much-needed help in the backfield, and given his blue-collar work ethic, Harris will be embraced by the city of Pittsburgh.
Christian Barmore, Alabama DT
New team — Patriots
Why it’s a good fit — What do you think the conversation with Nick Saban and Bill Belichick was like?
Belichick: Nick, we need defensive tackle help, and I hear your guy is good, but he’s got some discipline issues.
Saban: Bill, it’s all a bunch of hot garbage. A’ight, do I wish he listened to me more? Yeah. But he’s coachable, and I can’t deny that he’s got some un-teachable traits to rush the passer.
Belichick: I’m too old to have guys not listen to me. Juice worth the squeeze?
Saban: Absolutely. Have I ever steered you wrong?
Belichick: Well, the Cyrus Jones pick didn’t really …
Saban: He got hurt, a’ight. If he stays healthy, he’s an All-Pro right now.
Belichick: Ok, Ok. Relax. I’ll draft the Barmore kid.
Something like that? Sure. If there’s ever a place for Barmore to succeed with the right culture and coaching staff, it’s New England. And if he’s not an ideal fit? Sign me up for that revisited Belichick-Saban conversation.
Kyle Trask, Florida QB
New team — Buccaneers
Why it’s a good fit — I had Trask as the No. 5 quarterback in the NFL Draft ahead of Trey Lance. So yeah, I’m high on the Florida signal-caller. I’m even higher on him knowing that he just went from throwing to Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes in Dan Mullen’s offense to throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski in Bruce Arians’ offense. Some guys just have it all. Yes, I know Tom Brady will be the starter for the next couple of years. That’s what Trask needs. He admitted that. In order to play how he’s going to need to play in the NFL, that footwork will need to be nearly flawless. But backing up Brady, who will be 44 this season, is the ideal post-Round 1 situation for a quarterback.
Nick Bolton, Mizzou LB
New team — Chiefs
Why it’s a good fit — There’s the local angle for sure. That’ll make him a fan favorite from the jump. But what’ll also make him a fan favorite is if he’s a slightly shorter Devin White. Thanks to White’s Super Bowl performance, Chiefs fans know all too well how game-changing it is when a linebacker with those types of closing skills is in the middle of your defense. Bolton is that dude and then some. If he went to Alabama or Georgia, or if he had been 2 inches taller, he would’ve been a no-doubter first-rounder. I have zero doubt that before long, Bolton will be the face of the Chiefs defense just like White is in Tampa.
Jamin Davis, Kentucky LB
New team — Washington Football Team
Why it’s a good fit — I talked to SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic about why Davis didn’t really blow up until the pre-draft process. That’s rare in the SEC. Cubelic talked about how much Davis had to do in Kentucky’s defense, and that he didn’t really jump off the film unless you watched just him. Why do I bring that up? Because look where he went. Nobody in the NFL has a more promising defensive front than Washington with Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. That means Davis won’t be relied on to step in and become an elite pass-rusher. He can cover extremely well. He can pursue ball-carriers coming downhill. He can take advantage in blitzes and get home. Davis was a trendy riser, but he’s now got all the makings of a thriving young star in Ron Rivera’s loaded defense.
Eric Stokes, Georgia CB
New team — Packers
Why it’s a bad fit — I love Stokes. I banged the drum for him throughout the entire pre-draft process and when he ran that 4.2-40, I said “hey, nice of y’all to finally realize that this dude can jet.” So why don’t I like the fit? It’s the Aaron Rodgers saga. Every time Stokes messes up, Packer fans will say, “sure glad they drafted a corner instead of finally giving Rodgers some help at receiver.” Stokes entered a situation in which he’s destined to be a punching bag.
Even if he ends up being a quality starter, a lot of fans will continue to associate him with being the guy who was drafted instead of someone like Elijah Moore or Terrace Marshall. That’s a major bummer. Stokes basically will need to become a Pro Bowl corner in order to avoid being a cheesehead punchline.
Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky CB
New team — Cowboys
Why it’s a bad fit — I’m not a Bossman Fat believer. Can he have his moments? Yeah. I thought he did some impressive things against Alabama, and the pick-6 against Tennessee was an example of what he’s capable of. But I thought Joseph, while talented, needed another year to become more consistent. I feel like he’s going to have plays that frustrate a demanding Cowboys fan base. Joseph is a candidate to make a costly pass interference penalty or blow an assignment in a key moment. That defense needs a lot of help, but I’d be worried about starting him from the jump.
Jabril Cox, LSU ILB
New team — Cowboys
Why it’s a bad fit — This isn’t an anti-Cowboys thing. It’s not even an anti-Cox thing. I love Cox’s ability to cover in space. He’s built like a modern linebacker. He has an opportunity to thrive in the NFL after spending a year in Baton Rouge. So what’s the problem? For starters, the Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons at No. 12 overall. Parsons is also an inside linebacker, and the Cowboys have Leighton Vander Esch in a contract year. Oh, and Jaylon Smith is still there. It’s a crowded position group, and if Dan Quinn wants to run mostly a 4-3, those snaps for Cox on the inside could be limited with Parsons as the new key piece of the defense.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M QB
New team — Vikings
Why it’s a bad fit — On one hand, who wouldn’t mind walking into a situation with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook? That’s ideal for a young quarterback. What’s not so ideal? For starters, Kirk Cousins got sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL last year. We’ve seen Mond’s limitations playing behind a leaky offensive line pre-2020. In 2020, he got sacked a total of 7 times and not surprisingly, had his best year. For someone who looked like the game was too fast for him early in his career, I’d worry about that transitioning to the NFL, though the offensive line could look much different by the time he takes over.
There’s also the fact that Cousins is set to make $31 million in 2021 and $45 million in 2022. In other words, the Vikings are financially committed to Cousins for the next 2 years, so even if he starts to decline, Mond still might not be the guy. And if Cousins plays well after being motivated by the early pick for Mond? He’s only 32. This isn’t Dak Prescott taking over for 36-year-old Tony Romo, and Mond didn’t go to Pittsburgh, where he could’ve been the guy in waiting behind the 39-year-old Roethlisberger. The path to becoming a legitimate NFL starter might not be so clear for Mond.