1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect I’ve seen in nearly a decade, and the Jaguars obviously want a game-changer under center as the Urban Meyer era begins. But can they surround the Clemson QB with talent? Jacksonville signed Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency to pair with James Robinson, DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. in what should be a much-improved offense, but also remember that the Jags have 10 picks, including three more over the first two rounds. Stay tuned!
2. New York Jets
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Well, the Sam Darnold trade sure makes this a lot clearer. Wilson fits so well with the modern NFL, showing the ability to make plays on the run, the arm strength to drive the ball vertically and the instincts to tuck and run for big gains when necessary. But similar to the Jags, the Jets now have to get Wilson support. They brought in Corey Davis, Keelan Cole Sr. and Tevin Coleman over the past few weeks and have nine total picks to work with.
3. San Francisco 49ers (via MIA/HOU)
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Niners sacrificed first-rounders over the next two years and then some to skip the line. Which player did they do it for? Coach Kyle Shanahan surely has his guy in mind already, and it’s going to be a QB — teams don’t make these types of massive early deals for non-QBs. I’m hearing a lot of noise about Jones being the 49ers’ preference. He is accurate and reads the field so well, which helps assuage mobility concerns. Plus, he excels when passing in the pocket or off play-action, two staples of Shanahan’s system. San Francisco paid a hefty price, but quarterback was in need of an upgrade. Now it just has to hope it selects the right one.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Man, this one was tough. Do the Falcons take advantage of the opportunity to take their QB of the future while they have the high pick, or do they turn their attention to the elite offensive playmakers available? QB Trey Lance (North Dakota State) could be the pick, with the chance to learn behind Matt Ryan, but frankly Pitts is just too difficult to pass on. He is a unique talent and a mismatch for any opponent. His 6-foot-6 size, speed and hands would cause fits for defensive coordinators, especially when they already have to account for Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Chase is the best wide receiver in the class, and he set then-SEC records in 2019 with Bengals QB Joe Burrow under center for LSU. An opt-out in 2020, Chase is a physical matchup for any cornerback, and he is incredible at tracking and adjusting to the ball in the air. Tight end Kyle Pitts could be the guy if he were available, and no one is claiming that the Riley Reiff signing closed the door on the draft’s top two tackles — Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater — here either. But Chase is a dominant playmaker who would make an immediate impact outside. Also watch for a potential trade back: There are plenty of teams eyeing quarterbacks Trey Lance and Justin Fields (Ohio State) in this range.
6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
I love Miami trading out of No. 3, picking up additional draft picks — including a 2023 first-rounder — and still getting one of the players it would have been looking at in its original slot. Will Fuller V is on only a one-year deal, and bringing in Smith to join him and DeVante Parker would give Tua Tagovailoa the weapons he needs in the passing game. Smith is an explosive and savvy route runner, and let’s not forget that he was one of Tagovailoa’s favorite targets in Tuscaloosa.
7. Detroit Lions
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
There is one of the top four pass-catchers left here and a glaring void in the Detroit wide receiver room after Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. signed elsewhere. (Sorry, Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman aren’t going to cut it as No. 1 options in a division that includes Davante Adams, Allen Robinson II, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.) Waddle is an elusive burner, giving new QB Jared Goff someone to look for early and often each week.
8. Carolina Panthers
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Following the Panthers’ acquisition of Sam Darnold, quarterback falls off their list of draft needs, especially considering Teddy Bridgewater is still on the roster. The move doesn’t eliminate them from the QB conversation here, but it’s no longer a big concern. (Before the move, I projected Trey Lance in this spot.) So our first defensive player finally checks in at No. 8. Both of Carolina’s projected starting corners — Rashaan Melvin and Donte Jackson — could be free agents in 2022, and Surtain is instinctive and a natural playmaker. He’s a true shutdown corner, which would be key for the Panthers in a division that houses many talented wide receivers.
9. Denver Broncos
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
If both Lance and Justin Fields are still available, it’d be difficult to go a different direction — though I do think the Broncos could add a defensive playmaker here. Drew Lock hasn’t yet started a complete season and was missing his No. 1 receiver (Courtland Sutton) for essentially the entire 2020 campaign, so the verdict is still out on whether he can be the guy. But while I like his game and believe he can be a good starter, his production hasn’t met expectations in a division that includes Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr and Justin Herbert.
Lance has a big arm, reads the field well and is productive as a runner. The 17-game résumé at the FCS level means he might require time to learn and develop before he is given the reins, though. Alternatively, Denver could take the opportunity to trade back with another QB-needy franchise and pick up more draft capital.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Jourdan Lewis is back in Dallas, but the Cowboys still want to upgrade the cornerback position opposite Trevon Diggs. Perhaps it’s Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, though his back procedure might cause concern. Instead, I’m tabbing Horn, a speedy and versatile press corner. The Cowboys gave up 34 passing touchdowns last season, so expect them to address that area here — unless they opt to help protect the $160 million man, QB Dak Prescott, with one of the class’ top tackles.