May 13, 2021


NFL mock draft: Hub Arkush’s version 3.0

When a handful of us first started doing mock drafts back in the late ’70′s and early ’80′s it was because the great majority of fans knew so little about the top prospects it was a great way to inform people, in essence deliver news and have some fun.

But as the landscape exploded with both “Independent Draft Analysts” and “Draftnicks” following them, suddenly mocks were everywhere; they offered less and less new information and really become more misleading than anything else.

No two teams’ draft boards are identical, many aren’t even all that similar, and they’re definitely not sharing their work with anyone else.

So most of what you’re getting is either reporter’s own observations as amateur scouts after watching significant tape (and some are pretty good scouts), speculating based on which players teams have scouted the most noticeably, or it’s being promoted by agents trying to enhance their own client’s prospects with no regard to how accurate the info they’re sharing is.

In my mock draft 3.0 I want to try something different. Teams that consistently draft better than others do it by always taking the best football player available regardless of position and teams that annually struggle are usually focusing too much on needs.

So let’s take a look at what the 2021 draft would look like if every team but the Jets and 49ers – the Jets have no choice after trading Darnold and the Niners can’t justify three No. 1′s for anything but a QB – took the best player available with the highest ceiling at one of their three or four greatest areas of need.

Each player can only be listed three times.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

A. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Analysis: No mystery here.

2. New York Jets

A. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

B. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

Analysis: Don’t know how good he is, but Lance’s ceiling is the highest, and Zach Wilson and Mac Jones are same prospect as Darnold.

3. San Francisco 49ers

A. Trey Lance

B. Justin Fields

Analysis: It’s just impossible to imagine giving up all those picks for Wilson or Jones.

4. Atlanta Falcons

A. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

B. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

C. Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

Analysis: All three are needs. Corner is greatest but Sewell is best player on the board.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

A. Ja’Marr Chase

B. Penei Sewell

C. Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn St.

Analysis: Assuming Sewell is gone to Falcons, Chase improves Bengals the most. No edge rushers should go this high.

6. Miami Dolphins

A. Penei Sewell

B. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

C. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Analysis: Again assuming Sewell is gone. O-line still greatest need, Slater rates higher than Etienne.

7. Detroit Lions

A. Ja’Marr Chase

B. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.

C. Patrick Surtain

Analysis: They’re all great fits, but Parsons is a guy you build a defense around.

8. Carolina Panthers

A. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

B. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

C. Patrick Surtain

Analysis: If Darnold’s your guy, get him some weapons. Pitts is a perfect fit and excellent value here.

9. Denver Broncos

A. Rashawn Slater

B. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

C. Micah Parsons

Analysis: If Slater’s still there, the Broncos should grab him, but if he’s gone, Wilson isn’t quite the reach here. Huge need.

10. Dallas Cowboys

A. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

B. Kyle Pitts

C. Jayson Oweh

Analysis: If Surtain’s gone, Horn’s next up to fill their greatest need and not a huge reach at 10.

11. New York Giants

A. Rashawn Slater

B. Jaycee Horn

C. Micah Parsons

Analysis: All great fits, but Horn’s the guy I’d most expect to still be on the board.

12. Philadelphia Eagles

A. DeVonta Smith

B. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

C. Jeremiah Owusa-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

Analysis: Eagles are getting a ‘Bama wideout, almost have to unless they trade down.

13. Los Angeles Chargers

A. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

B. Jaycee Horn

C. Travis Etienne

Analysis: Chargers and Darrisaw, a match made in heaven.

14. Minnesota Vikings

A. Christian Darrisaw

B. Jayson Oweh

C. Justin Fields

Analysis: Probably ends up Oweh, many have Kwity Paye and/or Jaelan Phillips higher, but Oweh has highest ceiling.

15. New England Patriots

A. DeVonta Smith

B. Jaylen Waddle

C. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama, or Zach Wilson

Analysis: I don’t like one-year wonders in first round. Think Jones and Wilson both overrated, but it feels like there could be some magic in a Jones-Belichick match.

16. Arizona Cardinals

A. Kyle Pitts

B. Jaycee Horn

C. Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

Analysis: Barmore might be best player on board here and happens to fit Arizona’s biggest need.

17. Las Vegas Raiders

A. Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

B. Christian Darrisaw

C. Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern

Analysis: Ditto what I just said about Cards and Barmore, this pick is Paye.

18. Miami Dolphins

A. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC or Travis Etienne

B. Christian Barmore

C. Kwity Paye

Analysis: If they took Slater at No. 6, won’t take another OL here. I have Etienne still on the board, so they back into both.

19. Washington Football Team

A. Trey Lance

B. Jaylen Waddle

C. Jeremiah Owusa-Koramoah

Analysis: They’d take any of five QBs if one still on board, but if not Owusa-Korahmoa fills huge need, is great value here.

20. Chicago Bears

A. Alijah Vera-Tucker

B. Trey Lance

C. Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma St.

Analysis: Couldn’t pass Lance, but he’ll be gone. Vera-Tucker the pick over Jenkins if he’s there, have to take one or the other.

21. Indianapolis Colts

A. Kwity Paye

B. Alijah Vera-Tucker

C. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Analysis: All great fits, will take the highest letter still there, probably Toney though.

22. Tennessee Titans

A. Kadarius Toney

B. Greg Newsome

C. Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami (Fla.)

Analysis: Newsome could be best fit, especially if Toney is gone. If board does look like I’m lining it up here, Ballard will try and trade down.

23. New York Jets

A. Jaelan Phillips

B. Greg Newsome

C. Landon Dickerson, OT/OG, Alabama

Analysis: Phillips comes off here if he’s still on the board.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

A. Travis Etienne

B. Justin Fields

C. Landon Dickerson

Analysis: If Etienne is there, he’s the pick. If not, this is the spot to gamble on Dickerson’s health.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

A. Elijah Moore, WR, Mississippi

B. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon

C. Teven Jenkins

Analysis: Let’s get Lawrence the best pass catcher still on the board.

26. Cleveland Browns

A. Jaelan Phillips

B. Levi Christian Barmore

C. Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Analysis: Defense, defense, defense, choose in this order from whoever is left.

27. Baltimore Ravens

A. Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia

B. Elijah Moore

C. Teven Jenkins

Analysis: Ojulari just feels like a Raven pass rusher, and they don’t have many left.

28. New Orleans Saints

A. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU

B. Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

C. Zaven Collins

Analysis: Marshall could be best WR on board. Saints must find compliment to Michael Thomas, but Marshall has same traits. Collins could be the pick if he’s still there.

29. Green Bay Packers

A. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

B. Elijah Moore

C. Jevon Holland

Analysis: I’m assuming Moore is gone and Bolton fits greatest need – anyone that can stop the run.

30. Buffalo Bills

A. Zaven Collins

B. Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington

C. Eric Stokes

Analysis: If Collins and Barmore are gone Onwuzurike is good value and fills huge need.

31. Baltimore Ravens

A. Azeez Ojulari

B. Elijah Moore

C. Teven Jenkins

Analysis: Ravens could lucky enough to snag two quality players in quick succession.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A. Caleb Farley

B. Najee Harris

C. Mac Jones

Analysis: Farley would be long gone if not for back surgery, defending champs can take a chance on huge win if he’s healthy.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media