Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent and the best player in this NFL draft. That’s why Urban Meyer took the Jacksonville job, and that’s why the Jaguars are drafting Lawrence No. 1 overall on April 29, no questions asked.
But after Lawrence, the best players in this draft are not quarterbacks. So it’s a bit curious that the Jets and Niners are acting with such certainty about BYU’s Zach Wilson and, if the rumors are true, Alabama’s Mac Jones.
Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase are potentially franchise-changing talents, and after Lawrence, they are the players that have most of the teams in the top 10 drooling.
Granted, quarterbacks are just treated differently. It’s the most important position. There is almost no prohibitive cost for landing a great one and teams who don’t have one are desperate.
So maybe that’s what is happening here: maybe desperation is ruling the top of this draft.
I just find it strange that a QB like Wilson, who played behind a strong offensive line against weak competition, is being treated as such a sure thing over some of these other blue chip prospects — let alone over Sam Darnold, who I believe will light it up in Joe Brady’s Panthers offense.
I find it unusual that the Niners’ aggressive trade up would be for Jones, who many evaluators considered a late-first/early-second round prospect prior to Kyle Shanahan’s reported interest.
I find it incredibly off that the quarterback who buried Lawrence in last year’s College Football Playoff, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, isn’t the one jumping toward the top of the board.
Of course, everyone evaluates these players independently and comes to their own conclusions. Some teams are in different stages of the process than others, and that might dictate their desire or need to make a change for the long-term or to go all-in for now.
Also, when you’re selecting No. 2 overall and you love a quarterback, as the Jets do, you take him because he’s there and you hope to not be picking there again for a long time.
Plus there’s the combination of a weaker projected QB class next year, and this year’s uncertainty about so many prospects due to opt-outs and a compromised scouting process.
But I’m skeptical that suddenly three QBs are being fawned over as sure things, with Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance also projected first rounders, when only one QB has warranted that praise the whole way.
Lawrence is the one generational talent in this QB class — so good that the No. 1 pick has been set for months — and yet others are being treated as the sure No. 2 and 3 picks as if they are no-brainer moves.
I could be wrong about these players. Wilson and Jones might become stars. But frankly, I think the Jets and Niners are doing every other team behind them a favor by locking on to these other QBs, because the better players are sliding down the board to their foes.
This weekend was especially important in the NFL draft process. About 150 prospects traveled to Indianapolis to undergo an in-person medical examination with an NFL medical staff.
The pandemic’s cancellation of the annual NFL combine in late February eliminated the centralized medical gathering process that typically takes place two months before the draft.
Instead, this year, there were 330 virtual exams performed on the athletes, with the NFL’s 32 medical staffs assigned about 10 athletes apiece. Labs, tests and imaging were completed at designated sites closer to the athletes’ homes around the country.
But NFL evaluators still wanted more information and assurance, even as GMs, coaches and scouts gathered what they could themselves through trips to colleges’ pro days.
So this weekend was designed for teams to take a closer look at the top prospects, as well as those with medical histories who warranted a closer exam.
Each team was allowed to send just one orthopedic surgeon and one athletic trainer this year. All NFL medical personnel in Indy are already vaccinated.
To limit players’ exposure to others, not every team examined every prospect. Instead, a select group of surgeons examined each player and will share that information with all 32 teams.
To reinforce the necessity for these protocols, three Notre Dame players reportedly could not go to Indianapolis because they tested positive for COVID-19 after their pro day, per NFL Network: OT Liam Eichenberg, OL Aaron Banks and DE Ade Ogundeji.
There has been no indication that Giants offensive line coach Rob Sale, who worked out Notre Dame’s linemen at their pro day, has tested positive. But the Giants wouldn’t be obligated to make that public even if he did.
Attorney Rusty Hardin admitted at a Friday press conference that his client, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, has had sexual encounters with female masseuses. But Hardin and his legal team insisted any encounter was consensual and said Watson is “dumbfounded” by the 22 lawsuits he faces for alleged sexual assault and harrasment.
He said Watson started crying when first told that one of the lawsuits alleged he had used force on one of the women.
“Never at any time under any circumstances did this young man engage in anything that wasn’t mutually desired by the other party,” Hardin said.
In court, plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee agreed to share all of the identities of Watson’s accusers, which Hardin said was necessary to fully dispute the allegations.
In fact, Hardin said the reason he hadn’t spoken publicly extensively prior to Friday was that “we don’t know what happened for sure.”
Hardin made a peculiar attempt to cite the pandemic as one reason for Watson’s frequenting of so many different masseuses. There are at least 40 involved in this case, including the 22 lawsuits alleging misbehavior and 18 statements in defense of Watson as an upstanding man.
“Folks this guy has been getting two-to-three massages a week,” Hardin said. “The math I do on that is anywhere from 120-140-150 massages a year. He’s been here since 2018. In the year 2020, all of a sudden spas shut down. If ya’ll remember, nobody was getting massages unless there was an ad hoc way to do it.”
The main point Hardin wanted to get across on Friday, though, was that he felt Watson already had been tried and convicted on social media. Several sponsors suspended or dumped Watson, 25, this past week, including Nike and Beats by Dre, and his career in the short term is in jeopardy, too.
“What he wants more than anything,” Hardin said, “is to get back his reputation.”
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up first round
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up first round
1. Jacksonville (1-15) — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson, Jr.
2. N.Y. Jets (2-14) — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU, Jr.
3. San Francisco from Miami through Houston (4-12) — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St., So.
4. Atlanta (4-12) — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida, Jr.
5. Cincinnati (4-11-1) — Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU, Jr.
6. Miami from Philadelphia (4-11-1) — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama, Jr.
It's scary that a 10-win team with such a good coach and plenty of young talent also has four picks in the top 50. The Dolphins are desperate for wide receivers who can get open and it's clear that will be the target here (or they wouldn't have made this deal with the Eagles). Miami mimics Cincinnati by reuniting a top receiving prospect with his old college quarterback. A healthy Waddle is the most explosive all-around athlete at receiver in this class and his addition will only expedite former Crimson Tide teammate Tua Tagovailoa's development. Top needs: WR, RB, LB
7. Detroit (5-11) — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon, Jr.
In most drafts, Sewell would be the consensus No. 1 overall pick and he'd pair nicely with Taylor Decker, giving the Lions bookend tackles. The 2019 Outland Trophy winner — he opted out last season due to the threat of COVID-19 — isn't flawless, but his ceiling is as high as they come (he'll only be 21 in October). Top needs: WR, LB, DB
8. Carolina (5-11) — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St., Jr.
9. Denver (5-11) — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St., Jr.
A classic Vic Fangio defense usually features a playmaking linebacker at its core. Parsons is another elite prospect who opted out of the 2020 season, citing "the potential risk to the health and well-being" of his young son due to COVID. He recently dazzled scouts with a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day. This would be the first time in my lifetime the first defensive player off the board lasts this long. Top needs: Edge, OT, LB
10. Dallas (6-10) — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama, Jr.
11. N.Y. Giants (6-10) — Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan, Sr.
The Giants are in need of another pass rushing threat to go opposite Leonard Williams. Paye is already an impressive run defender against the spread offense, which is becoming increasingly important in the NFL, and there are athletic indicators he will continue to improve as a pass rusher. Top needs: OL, Edge, LB
12. Philadelphia from Miami through San Francisco (6-10) — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama, Sr.
Is it me or does it seem like the Eagles are always in need of help at receiver? The Heisman winner took his game to another level after Waddle was sidelined in 2020 — he had 1,300 yards on 72 receptions and 19 touchdowns in his last eight games. The only blemish is his size. Top needs: WR, CB, LB
13. L.A. Chargers (7-9) — Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern, Sr.
Signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley is a step in the right direction for a very bad offensive line. Slater opted out this season due to COVID, but handled the mighty Chase Young as a junior while playing left tackle and didn't allow a single sack his last season. He's versatile and talented enough to play all five offensive line positions. He did nothing during his pro day to hurt himself. Top needs: OL, CB, DL
14. Minnesota (7-9) — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech, Sr.
Coach Mike Zimmer didn't hold back when he called his defense the "worst one I've ever had," but the offensive line is priority here considering the Vikings don't have a pick in the second round. Darrisaw would be the first Hokie offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round since 2008 ( Duane Brown). Top needs: OL, S, Edge
15. New England (7-9) — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama, Jr.
16. Arizona (8-8) — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama, Sr.
If you're a fantasy player who is excited about Chase Edmonds' potential as a featured back now that Kenyan Drake has moved on, don't get your hopes up. Harris has evolved into an all-around threat. Of course, he's a powerful runner with his size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds), but he's also developed into a great receiver out of the backfield and he's improved significantly in pass-protection. Top needs: CB, RB, OL
17. Las Vegas (8-8) — Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, S, TCU, Jr.
The Raiders must address their atrocious secondary. Moehrig-Woodard's skillset is scheme-proof. He's a hard hitter who led all safeties in pass breakups in each of the past two seasons. Top needs: OT, S, LB
18. Miami (10-6) — Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson, Sr.
One way to alleviate the pressure off of a young quarterback is to give him a dynamic running back who is a three-down threat and capable of scoring every time the ball is in his hands. Etienne, a three-time All-American and the ACC's career rushing leader, fits the bill perfectly. Top needs: WR, RB, LB
19. Washington (7-9) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame, Sr.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Taylor Heinicke isn't the quarterback of the future for the Football Team — or Ryan Fitzpatrick for that matter — but there's not a QB on the board worthy of this pick. Owusu-Koramoah is an explosive athlete who can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year also won the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) and was a consensus All-American. Top needs: QB, LB, Edge
20. Chicago (8-8) — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech, Jr.
21. Indianapolis (11-5) — Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia, So.
I expected the Colts to be aggressive seeking their next quarterback in the trade market and they didn't disappoint. The next biggest priority is to continue building their pass rush. Ojulari was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (the nation's top defensive player) with 8.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 25 quarterback hurries. He's only scratching the surface of his talent. Top needs: Edge, OT, CB
22. Tennessee (11-5) — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina, Jr.
The Titans will need to address their secondary (after releasing Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Butler) in a major way. Horn — his father Joe was a Pro Bowl wide receiver — is a very talented, uber-aggressive press corner with elite speed, good size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and can make plays in run support. Top needs: WR, CB, DT
23. N.Y. Jets from Seattle (12-4) — Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami, Jr.
If past is prologue, once head coach Robert Saleh has his quarterback situation figured out, he'll focus on building a pass rush. Phillips stepped up in Gregory Rousseau's absence after transferring from UCLA. The former highly-touted recruit is a relentless pass rusher who produced eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 10 games as a Hurricane. Top needs: QB, OT, LB
24. Pittsburgh (12-4) — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC, Jr.
The Steelers are facing difficult decisions at almost every major position after this season, but it's clear the offensive line has to be a priority. Vera-Tucker was one of the best offensive tackles in the country, but could also shine on the interior in the NFL. Top needs: OT, RB, LB
25. Jacksonville from L.A. Rams (10-6) — Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn St., So.
26. Cleveland (11-5) — Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa, Jr.
The Browns need to upgrade their pass rush outside of Myles Garrett, but they also need to improve their linebacker corps. Collins has the size (6-4, 260), athleticism and positional flexibility that will cause most defensive coordinators to drool. He received the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded by the Football Writers Association of America to the top defensive player in college football. Top needs: LB, Edge, DL
27. Baltimore (11-5) — Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami, So.
Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon are gone. It's been almost two decades since a Hurricane defensive end was taken in the first round ( Jerome McDougle in 2003). Rousseau finished with 15.5 sacks in 13 games as a redshirt freshman, but opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Top needs: Edge, C, LB
28. New Orleans (12-4) — Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue, So.
Emmanuel Sanders' release and no money for free agency might necessitate this move. Moore would be a nice fit opposite a healthy Michael Thomas. An impressive pro day should boost him into the back-end of the first round. Top needs: QB, DB, WR
29. Green Bay (13-3) — Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern, Jr.
30. Buffalo (13-3) — Jaylen Mayfield, OL, Michigan, Jr.
Offensive tackle Daryl Williams was resigned, but the Bills still need to address the interior. Mayfield features the versatility and athleticism to thrive in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's system. Top needs: DL, G, CB
31. Kansas City (14-2) — Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas, Jr.
The greatness of Patrick Mahomes has made up for the mediocrity of his offensive line since he became the starter. Joe Thuney was a nice addition at guard. Cosmi is capable of starting at right tackle day one, but has the ability to protect Mahomes' blindside eventually. Top needs: OT, LB, WR