Finally, the 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner. If you’re like me, you’re more relieved than excited as we get to check off all our mock drafts or, at least, move on to actually talking about football instead of listening to each talking head dish out a slightly altered version of each other’s mocks.
We’ll take a look at the prospects to get acquainted with: the cream of the crop, and predict where they’ll land using the over/unders from the NFL Draft betting odds. These are the best players outside of the obvious selections of Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, who who are all but guaranteed to go one and two.
Projecting Draft Pick Number of Top Prospects
Mac Jones (Quarterback)
The San Francisco 49ers traded up to third pick, making it obvious they will be taking one of the three remaining quarterbacks. Right now, most media outlets have reported on them choosing between Trey Lance and Mac Jones. But it might all be smoke and mirrors and they take Justin Fields.
Either way, Jones is far from a guaranteed pick here at third and the totals here are 49ers or bust. It’s more of a 50/50 thing considering he seems dead-even with the other two quarterbacks. At this price, it’s worth betting on the Niners grabbing one of the other two.
Pick: Over 3½ Draft Number (+160)
Ja’Marr Chase (Wide Receiver)
Chase is unanimously considered the best wide receiver prospect in the draft and it’s all but guaranteed that he’ll be the one taken off the board (-800). The LSU product is projected to go anywhere from the No. 5 pick to the early teens.
But talks have been growing that the Bengals, at five, are strongly leaning on taking Chase, Joe Burrow’s teammate from LSU. The team could select left tackle Penei Sewell to protect him, but the allure of having a star tandem will be too tough to resist. The two will not only be fun to watch but also help create buzz for the franchise.
Pick: Under 5½ Draft Number (-120)
Bengals deep passing attack struggled in 2020…
Joe Burrow had a 98.2 PFF Passing Grade when targeting Ja’Marr Chase on 20+ yard throws in 2019👀 pic.twitter.com/guUZxYrChm
PFF (@PFF) April 23, 2021
Jaycee Horn (Cornerback)
Boy, did Horn’s number get steamed. Patrick Surtain Jr. was once the consensus top pick at cornerback, but Horn has quickly encroached on his spot and is a decent underdog bet at +200 to be the first corner taken.
Either way, even if Surtain Jr. gets drafted first, there are at least three teams in the top 13 — Carolina (9), Dallas (10), and the Chargers (13th) — who will most likely snatch him up as shutdown corners are a can’t-miss commodity these days.
Pick: Under 13½ Draft Number (-200)
Kyle Pitts (Tight End)
Anything can happen in the draft and Pitts falling out of the top five is one of them. But that would be one of the biggest shockers as the highly touted tight end from Florida is mocked to be the first non-quarterback drafted. That likely will be Atlanta at four or Cincinnati at five.
Chase and Sewell may be considered better players overall, but a tight end of Pitts’ caliber rarely ever comes. The Falcons could do anything with the fourth pick. They could trade down or even draft a quarterback. But if they don’t, they’re taking Pitts. And if they pass, the Bengals won’t hesitate to grab him.
Pick: Under 5½ Draft Number (-350)
Penei Sewell (Offensive Lineman)
The best non-quarterback prospect could be the biggest faller in this draft thanks to circumstances unrelated to him. Sewell should still be the first lineman taken (-650), but if at 5½, it’s Bengals or bust. And the Bengals could lean on the sexier option with Chase.
That would leave the Detroit Lions at seven as the most likely destination for the junior from Oregon. Sewell is a tank and can slot into either tackle or guard, which will help protect their new quarterback Jared Goff while shoring up their running game.
Pick: Over 5½ Draft Number (-200)
Trey Lance (Quarterback)
It is entirely possible that Lance becomes the third overall pick with the 49ers. But it is more likely that the Niners take either Fields or Jones and Lance falls all the way to ninth, to the Broncos.
Lance is the most enigmatic of the five quarterback prospects. Consider him the Lamar Jackson of the draft, a QB with all the tools to be an exciting and prolific signal caller but also one that still needs a lot of development.