As the NFL Draft rapidly approaches, Draft Talk’s Stu takes a look at whether there might be any first night surprises?
Thursday Night – the night we have all been waiting for. The First Round of the NFL 2021 Draft looms large on the horizon. Mock drafts are being churned out like there is no tomorrow. Theories are being bandied about left, right and centre. Excitement is at fever pitch. But, aside from Trevor Lawrence heading to Duval county, does anyone really know what is going to unfold over the several hours following?
As we have become accustomed to, the First round of the draft throws up numerous surprises. Think Clelin Ferrell at 4 to the Raiders in 2019, or the Packers trading up for Jordan Love last year. So what surprises could we see this year?
Atlanta Trades Back……but with who?
With Quarterbacks likely off the board with picks 1, 2 and 3, the draft really begins at 4 with the Atlanta Falcons. It still remains shrouded in mystery as to whether the Falcons stick and pick, or decide to trade down and accumulate draft assets for rookie GM Terry Fontenot.
Lawrence at 1 and Wilson at 2 are pretty much locks at this point. The draft buzz as of now is that the 49ers will either select Trey Lance or Mac Jones. This would leave Justin Fields very much up for grabs. In this scenario, I suspect that Fontenot will be fielding many offers – The Patriots, The Patriots and Washington may all be packaging up offers.
What if a team that no one has mentioned fancies taking Fields as the face of their franchise. Sitting just above all these teams at 14 is Minnesota. Kirk Cousins hasn’t led them to the promised land like they hoped when they signed him to a monster contract. The Vikings have made moves recently to restructure ‘Captain’ Kirk’s contract that would see him ‘tradeable’ in 2022. What if their intention is to have a rookie sit behind Kirk, then take over the reigns in 2022? As a team with lots of draft picks, and not afraid of making a splash, could they be tempted if Ohio State’s Justin Fields is available?
Gruden and Mayock – what will they do?
As we have mentioned on the Draft Talk podcast on many occasions, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock march to the beat of a different drummer. The aforementioned Clelin Ferrell pick in 2019 being just one of their ‘interesting’ roster manoeuvres. The Las Vegas Raiders offensive line has been decimated this offseason – gone are Rodney Hudson, Trent Brown and Gabe Jackson. All with no obvious reason, or plan in mind. Or is there?
Most of us have the top 2 centres in the draft – Creed Humphrey and Landon Dickerson – pencilled in as late 1st/early 2nd round picks. However, it would not surprise me if the Raiders used their number 17 pick on either of these two players to be the skipper of their offensive line moving forward. Both are seen as leaders and ‘character’ guys and we all know how much the Raiders hierarchy values those traits.
Who may tumble?
Every year someone who is expected to be drafted highly tumbles down the draft board. We have all seen the images of a stoney face Aaron Rodgers sitting the green room in 2005. He saw Alex Smith go number 1 and had to wait until pick 24 before he heard his name called. More recently we saw highly regarded Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil fall to the Dolphins at 13 after some ‘controversial’ online images surfaced on draft night.
So who could fall in this years draft? One person I have had my eye on is Jaylen Waddle, the former Alabama speedster. The consensus seems to be that Ja’Marr Chase is to be the first wide receiver off the board. Kyle Pitts, although not at wide receiver, is a freaky proposition and will be highly sought after in the top 10. Also in the mix is Heismann winner Devonta Smith, who is rumoured in many circles to be Miami’s number 1 target at 6. The Lions would be a sensible slot at 7, but their needs are so far-reaching they should be a trade back candidate.
This could leave Waddle on the outside looking in. Could he drop into the teens when mock drafts early in the year had him going as high as number 3? We’ll have to wait and see.
6 Quarterbacks in Round 1?
It’s fairly safe to assume that we will see 5 Quarterbacks hear their name called by Roger Goodell on Thursday night before donning the appropriate cap and smile as they head to the podium. But could there be a 6th? Over the past few years we have seen numerous signal callers picked later in round 1 with 5 year options coveted. Think Jordan Love, Lamar Jackson, Paxton Lynch (!!) and Teddy Bridgewater in recent times. Could some teams fall in love with the likes of Davis Mills (whom the New Orleans Saints have certainly done a lot of work on), Kyle Trask or even Kellen Mond and feel they are worth the gamble? It’s probably not going to happen but would it really shock any of us if it did?
Aaron Rodgers leaves with a smile…..
Earlier, I touched upon Aaron Rodgers and his own draft night nightmare. But could he leave the 2021 draft with a smile on his face? Last year was the year we all thought he would get a first round receiver. However, the Packers moved up and snared his potential successor in Jordan Love. My Draft Talk buddy, Owain, wrote earlier in the week about how the Packers were a trade-up candidate and possibly for a corner.
But what if they do the unthinkable and decide to pull the trigger on a wide receiver. Yes, they have one of the league’s best in Devante Adams, MVS is a good deep threat receiver, and Allen Lazard is one of the best blocking wide receivers you will see. But image Aaron Rodgers glee if the Packers were to trade up and snare someone like Minnesota Gophers Rashod Bateman? A move like this would really put the NFC on notice that the Packers are determined to return to the big game.
Are any of the surprises likely to happen? Who knows but its only 3 more sleeps until we find out. As always let us know your thoughts on Twitter @NinetynineYards and @stuie17