Final thoughts ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft
Does anything take longer to get here than the NFL Draft?
I mean, really.
It’s especially long when there’s no NFL Combine like this year. Thankfully, though, we’re behind that.
The NFL Draft is here, and all of our takes will soon be validated.
Here are my final thoughts ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft:
1. I hope Kyle Pitts goes No. 4 to Atlanta for a couple of reasons
There’s the obvious side of wanting to see Pitts in Atlanta. A group of Pitts, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley would be next-level entertaining. Pitts returning to the place where at this time last year, he transformed himself into an all-world prospect, seems fitting.
But Pitts going No. 4 also opens the door for chaos.
I keep telling myself that the Bengals are going to trade back at No. 5 and that someone is going to pay a premium price to go up and get Justin Fields. Assuming Atlanta wants to squeeze another couple years out of Matt Ryan and Pitts is the pick as many have speculated, there could be a ton of potential teams calling up the Bengals. If Cincinnati is in position to take one of the top 3 receivers or Penei Sewell, one would think they could still do that at No. 9, which is currently owned by the Broncos.
This draft is begging for chaos after those first 4 picks. Fields has been too polarizing of a prospect — through no fault of his own — not to have a wild draft night.
2. The Trey Lance love baffles me, as does Zach Wilson as the unanimous No. 2
This is a big part of why I’m not there with Lance:
Career passing attempts from the top QBs in the draft:
Kellen Mond: 1,370
Trevor Lawrence: 1,147
Zach Wilson: 841
Kyle Trask: 815
Justin Fields: 622
Mac Jones: 560
Davis Mills: 442
Trey Lance: 319 👀
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 20, 2021
Maybe it’s just my view as a jaded Bears fan who watched the franchise sell its soul to trade up and select someone with 1 year of starting experience against ACC competition, but Lance feels like a monster roll of the dice. At least Josh Allen had experience at the FBS level.
For all the people criticizing Mac Jones for having ideal circumstances around him, why aren’t they also questioning Lance’s circumstances, which had to be more advantageous at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State than Jones against all-SEC competition? I get that Lance, from a physical standpoint, looks the part. Maybe he’ll go to the right situation and succeed. I just can’t imagine going after him with a top-10 pick.
With Wilson, on the other hand, I understand the buzz a bit more. Everyone wants to draft the next Pat Mahomes. The arm angles and the jaw-dropping throws suggest that Wilson has the best chance of following in those footsteps. But I’m still of the impression that Mahomes is a football unicorn who went to the exact right situation and sat a year before becoming what we know him as today.
Is Wilson really going to be in that spot with the Jets? I’d doubt it. It’s not just that he hasn’t faced a Power 5 opponent since Sept. 2019, or that captaincy thing. It’s that the floor seems too low for someone going that high. It blows me away that Wilson becomes the consensus No. 2 guy and not Fields.
3. My unofficial over/under for SEC quarterbacks drafted is 4
We know that Jones, Kellen Mond and Kyle Trask are coming off the board. The questionable guys are Jamie Newman, Feleipe Franks and K.J. Costello.
(On a quick side note to my future self — do not listen to what people say after season openers about NFL Draft prospects. Go back to that LSU game and read some of the Costello takes that came out. They’re … a lot.)
— Bulldawgs247 (@Bulldawgs247) October 2, 2020
I’m not banking on Costello getting drafted, but then again, Tommy Stevens was drafted last year, so who knows?
Newman is probably coming off the board at some point. At least one would think. Who knows where he’s at after the strange opt out shut down any talk of him being a first-round guy. At this time last year, that’s what the conversation was. Now, he seems like an obvious Day 3 guy.
Where it could get interesting is Franks. I predicted that he’d go to the Eagles in the 6th round to reunite with his old quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson. But Franks, even after he did some great things at Arkansas last year, is probably still not a guarantee to get drafted.
So are you taking the over or the under on my unofficial prop?
4. If your anti-DeVonta Smith take references his weight, you’re what I hate about Draft Twitter
It’s such a dumb argument. I can understand concerns like if a guy is trying to play outside receiver at 5-6 or if his college numbers were skewed because his team threw the ball 50 times a game. I’d even understand the weight thing for a running back or quarterback with the hits they have to take.
But no, I wouldn’t let Smith’s 166-pound frame scare me off. This isn’t 1995 anymore where safeties can come downhill and head-hunt. The game has never been more skinny-receiver friendly. Smith is skinny, but he’s as smooth as it gets. I said throughout his Heisman Trophy season that it felt like we were watching an All-Pro receiver playing against college competition. It just didn’t seem fair.
DeVonta Smith put on a clinic in his Heisman-winning season⚡️🏆 pic.twitter.com/iLixL9nipe
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) April 19, 2021
What seems totally unfair is assuming that if he doesn’t become an All-Pro in the NFL, that it’ll be because he didn’t weigh 185 pounds. The anti-Smith crowd will use that narrative, and not point to the myriad of other factors that contribute to whether a receiver becomes a star.
Whatever the case, I don’t buy the notion that Smith is available after the top 10. Maybe I’m a bit biased having watched him for the last 4 years, but friends don’t let friends say that Smith is doomed to fail because he’s 166 pounds soaking wet.
5. I’m fascinated to see what happens with the Auburn receiver duo
I’ll be honest. Taking Anthony Schwartz in the second round would be a sign that a team believes he was misused at Auburn because the production wouldn’t line up. Is that totally fair?
Schwartz’s world-class speed is obviously a massive selling point, as is the fact that he steadily improved despite having some rather lackluster quarterback play/protection in the passing game. Mecole Hardman would be my comp for Schwartz. If he goes to a place like Kansas City, look out. But Round 2 feels like a bit much for a guy who still needs to show that he’s more than a speedster in the open field.
Seth Williams probably will come off the board after Schwartz, but by how much? Will he slip into Day 3? Or will a team love some of his traits on the outside and make him a Day 2 guy after a somewhat disappointing pre-draft season?
It’s interesting because at 6-3, 211 pounds, Williams fits more of the prototypical receiver mold than a lot of the guys who will come off the board before him. But the game has changed, and Williams will probably get dinged for the Jaycee Horn game, and for the fact that he was inconsistent in a struggling passing game the last couple of years.
Auburn only had 3 receivers drafted during the Gus Malzahn era, and Schwartz could end up going higher than all of them (Sammie Coats went No. 87 overall in 2015). I can’t say I would’ve expected that.
6. The Kentucky history that’s well within reach
I think 6 Cats are coming off the board. There are 4 near-locks to get drafted with Jamin Davis, Kelvin Joseph, Drake Jackson and Quinton Bohanna. The 2 who could easily join that group are Landon Young and Boogie Watson. If that happens, we’d be talking about a modern-draft record (since 1994) of 6 Kentucky players drafted.
Kentucky would probably also be among the top 6-7 schools in terms of most players drafted in 2021. Again, that’s Kentucky.
That’d be a credit to Mark Stoops and his staff, which has totally turned Kentucky into the Iowa of the SEC in terms of developing 3-star recruits into NFL players. We could be talking about 13 players drafted in a 3-year stretch. That’d be more than Kentucky had from 2009-18.
Not too shabby.
7. The Christian Barmore falling draft stock buzz is weird because none of it is new
Why are we just finding out some of the concerns about Barmore not taking coaching well or that he wasn’t on the field a ton? Wasn’t it obvious that the guy was much better as an elite pass-rusher than a run-stuffer? We already knew he still had some refining to do in order to become a complete player.
Seeing this come out draft week was strange:
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) April 25, 2021
I don’t know. I thought 8 sacks in 11 games, not all of which he was healthy for, was a sign that the defensive tackle made plenty of plays. Maybe I’m wrong.
I tend to think Barmore is sort of like the deep threat receiver. No, it’s not high-volume, but there are very few people with that skill set to rush the passer so well from the interior, which is still a tremendous asset.
It makes me wonder if some of the talk surrounding Barmore is a bit of a smoke screen and that someone wants to trade up into the back end of the first round to snag him. It wasn’t long ago that we were talking about his Playoff dominance and how much money he made himself by shining on that stage.
It’s just strange that the Barmore skepticism all seems like it came out in the last 2 weeks. File that one away.
8. We could see the SEC’s streak come to an end …
Oh, no. Not that streak. The SEC is going to win the NFL Draft title for most picks by a conference for the 15th year in a row. No doubt.
But I think there’s a good chance that for the first time since that streak began, the SEC fails to have an offensive lineman or defensive lineman drafted in Round 1. You’d have to go all the way back to 2006 to find the last such instance.
The guys to keep in mind are the aforementioned Barmore, Landon Dickerson, Azeez Ojulari and perhaps Alex Leatherwood, though he seems much more like a Day 2 guy. I wouldn’t say Barmore, Dickerson or Ojulari are unanimous Round 1 guys in the mocks. It’s at least in play.
The fact that it’s even a possibility is telling. From 2007-2020, 10 of the 14 drafts had an SEC lineman drafted in the top 10. Shoot, last year, the SEC had 3 linemen picked in the top 10.
Now, there’s a chance we could see double-digit SEC players picked in Round 1, and none of them are linemen … while perhaps 5-6 SEC receivers come off the board. Call that a sign of the times.
A streak is on the line on Thursday night in Cleveland.