INDIANAPOLIS — With April comes the NFL Draft and all the speculation that surrounds it.
By the end of the month, not only will life-long NFL dreams be realized, but teams will make decisions that will impact the trajectory of the franchise for years to come. It’s a high-stakes, high-drama affair that drew more than 15.6 millions viewers last year during the first night alone.
In this mock draft, FOX59’s Joe Hopkins attempts to predict who each team will draft by weighing team needs and team-building philosophy against the best player available.
1 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence – QB – Clemson
NFL Comparison – Andrew Luck
Lawrence has been a projected first-overall pick since his freshman year and is the most highly-regarded quarterback to come out since Andrew Luck in 2012. Jacksonville hopes to finally land a franchise quarterback with this can’t-miss prospect.
Other Considerations – Zach Wilson (QB), Justin Fields (QB), Trey Lance (QB)
2 – New York Jets: Zach Wilson – QB – BYU
NFL Comparison – Aaron Rodgers
R-E-L-A-X as Rodgers would say. Wilson’s pro comparison is a reflection of body type and play style, not so much a prediction of career success. With that said, New York moves on from Sam Darnold for a quarterback with Rodgers-like tools.
Other Considerations – Justin Fields (QB), Trey Lance (QB), Penei Sewell (OT)
3 – San Fransisco 49ers: Trey Lance – QB – North Dakota State
NFL Comparison – Dak Prescott
San Fran’s vault from the 12th to the 3rd pick screams quarterback. Lance is as physically gifted as any QB in this draft, but is still in development with just 318 collegiate pass attempts. The 49ers are in a position to groom Lance with Jimmy Garoppolo still in place as the starter.
Other Considerations – Justin Fields (QB), Mack Jones (QB), Ja’Marr Chase (WR)
4 – Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields – QB – Ohio State
NFL Comparison – Robert Griffin III
Quarterbacks go one, two, three, four as Atlanta selects their heir apparent to the aging Matt Ryan. Fields can adjust to the pro game while he sits behind the veteran, that is if his talent doesn’t get him on the field sooner than expected.
Other Considerations – Kyle Pitts (TE), Mack Jones (QB), Ja’Marr Chase (WR)
5 – Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Pitts – TE – Florida
NFL Comparison – Darren Waller
Pitts appears to be the next cheat-code tight end in the mold of a Travis Kelce or Darren Waller. The Bengals provide Joe Burrow a freakish talent who some consider to be the second best player in the draft.
Other Considerations – Ja’Marr Chase (WR), Penei Sewell (OT), Rashawn Slater (OT)
6 – Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase – WR – LSU
NFL Comparison – A.J. Brown
The Dolphins surround Tua Tagovailoa with weapons in an effort to help the young quarterback succeed. Chase has all the makings of a dominant, number one receiver who can beat you in just about every way imaginable.
Other Considerations – DeVonta Smith (WR), Penei Sewell (OT), Rashawn Slater (OT)
7 – Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell – OT – Oregon
NFL Comparison – Ronnie Stanley
While wide receiver is a glaring need, the Lions want to be a hard-nosed, kneecap-biting team under new coach Dan Campbell. Don’t be surprised if they invest in the trenches, especially after trading for QB Jared Goff, who struggles to create off script.
Other Considerations – Rashawn Slater (OT), DeVonta Smith (WR), Jaylen Waddle (WR)
8 – Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater – OT – Northwestern
NFL Comparison – Tristan Wirfs
Investing in the offensive line is a smart way to ensure the Sam Darnold trade works out. Despite being slightly undersized, there is a legitimate debate between Slater and Sewell for the draft’s top offensive tackle.
Other Considerations – Micah Parsons (LB), Patrick Surtain II (CB), Jaycee Horn (CB)
9 – Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons – LB – Penn State
NFL Comparison – Bobby Wagner
With the top four quarterbacks already off the board, the Broncos opt for a top-notch linebacker prospect in hopes of regaining defensive dominance. Parsons brings an elite combination of size, athleticism and versatility to the middle of Denver’s defense.
Other Considerations – Kwity Paye (EDGE), Greg Rousseau (EDGE), Patrick Surtain II (CB)
10 – Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II – CB – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Xavier Rhodes
Defense was an issue last year for the Cowboys, who gave up the fifth most points in the league (29.6 PPG). Surtain II fills a need and teams up with Trevon Diggs to give Dallas an exciting, young duo in the secondary.
Other Considerations – Jaycee Horn (CB), Kwity Paye (EDGE), Greg Rousseau (EDGE)
11 – New York Giants: Kwity Paye – EDGE – Michigan
NFL Comparison – Melvin Ingram
The Kenny Golladay signing frees New York up to use their first pick on a pass rusher, a move more in line with general manager Dave Gettleman’s team-building philosophy. While he’s yet to put it all together, Paye is an explosive athlete with the tools to develop into a double-digit sack artist.
Other Considerations – Greg Rousseau (EDGE), DeVonta Smith (WR), Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL)
12 – Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith – WR – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Stefon Diggs
Despite trading down, the Eagles still land a top-tier prospect thanks to the run on quarterbacks. Don’t let Smith’s slender frame fool you. The Heisman Trophy winner is a nightmare to cover with elite route running ability, hands and play speed.
Other Considerations – Jaylen Waddle (WR), Jaycee Horn (CB), Greg Rousseau (EDGE)
13 – Los Angeles Chargers: Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Tyreek Hill
Though the top left tackle prospects are off the board, Los Angeles continues to upgrade Justin Herbert’s supporting cast. Waddle moves at a different pace than everyone else on the field, and his otherworldly speed will bring an additional element to the Chargers’ offense.
Other Considerations – Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL), Jaycee Horn (CB), Christian Darrisaw (OT)
14 – Minnesota Vikings: Gregory Rousseau – DE – Miami
NFL Comparison – Jason Pierre-Paul
Whether to pair with Danielle Hunter or replace the disgruntled star, the Vikings are in need of a pass rusher after finishing in the bottom five in sacks (23). Despite his lack of experience at the position, Rousseau used his length and range to rack up 15.5 sacks in 2019 before opting out in 2020.
Other Considerations – Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL), Jaelan Phillips (DE), Christian Darrisaw (OT)
15 – New England Patriots: Mac Jones – QB – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Matt Ryan
New England’s quarterback of the future falls right into their lap. Jones isn’t wowing anyone with his physical ability, but the Patriots are betting on his accuracy, anticipation and intangibles, the same skills that made Tom Brady so successful.
Other Considerations – Jaycee Horn (CB), Jaelan Phillips (DE), Travis Etienne (RB)
16 – Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn – CB – South Carolina
NFL Comparison – Marshon Lattimore
Need and value align for the Cardinals as they select the physically gifted Gamecock. Horn is a tremendous athlete with excellent size, ball-skills and a physical playstyle.
Other Considerations – Caleb Farley (CB), Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL), Jaelan Phillips (DE)
17 – Las Vegas Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker – OL – USC
NFL Comparison – Zack Martin
Once a strength, the offensive line has become a concern after the Raiders cut ties with three starters this offseason. Vera-Tucker is one of the cleaner prospects in this draft and excelled at both guard and tackle at Southern California.
Other Considerations – Jaelan Phillips (DE), Christian Darrisaw (OT), Caleb Farley (CB)
18 – Miami Dolphins: Azeez Ojulari – EDGE – Georgia
NFL Comparison – Yannick Ngakoue
A Dolphin hasn’t recorded double-digit sacks since Cameron Wake met the milestone in 2017. Ojulari, who is Pro Football Focus’ highest graded pass rusher in the draft, brings some much-needed juice off the edge.
Other Considerations – Jaelan Phillips (DE), Najee Harris (RB), Christian Darrisaw (OT)
19 – Washington Football Team: Christian Darrisaw – OT – Virginia Tech
NFL Comparison – Eric Fisher
The impact of Trent Williams’ departure was felt in Washington last season as the offensive line surrendered 50 sacks, tied for second most in the league. Darrisaw was as reliable as they come for the Hokies in 2020, and his length, power and awareness should translate well to the next level.
Other Considerations – Caleb Farley (CB), Tevin Jenkins (OT), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB)
20 – Chicago Bears: Caleb Farley – CB – Virginia Tech
NFL Comparison – Jimmy Smith
Farley was arguably the draft’s top cornerback prospect before back surgery caused him to miss his pro day. Still, Farley is expected to be ready for training camp, and the Bears could have a steal on their hands as they aim to replace Kyle Fuller with another gifted Virginia Tech corner.
Other Considerations – Tevin Jenkins (OT), Elijah Moore (WR), Jaelan Phillips (DE)
21 – Indianapolis Colts: Teven Jenkins – OT – Oklahoma State
NFL Comparison – Orlando Brown
Anthony Castonzo’s retirement left a canyon-sized void at left tackle that cannot be filled with low-level veteran signings. Jenkins is a bulldozer of a lineman whose nasty demeanor would fit the identity of an offensive line highlighted by Quenton Nelson.
Other Considerations – Liam Eichenberg (OT), Jaelan Phillips (DE), Jayson Oweh (DE)
22 – Tennessee Titans: Elijah Moore – WR – Ole Miss
NFL Comparison – Tyler Lockett
Tennessee needs to restock their weapons cabinet after WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith found new homes in free agency. Moore is a dynamic playmaker who can beat you deep, underneath and even out of the backfield.
Other Considerations – Rashod Bateman (WR), Greg Newsome II (CB), Kadarius Toney (WR)
23 – New York Jets: Jaelan Phillips – DE – Miami
NFL Comparison – Montez Sweat
One could argue Phillips is the best edge rusher in the class based on his 2020 production and pro day performance, but an injury history that prompted him to temporarily medically retire after the 2018 season will give teams pause. The Jets take a chance on Phillips as they work to remake their pass rush.
Other Considerations – Travis Etienne (RB), Najee Harris (RB), Jayson Oweh (DE)
24 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris – RB – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Matt Forte
A recommitment to the run is needed in Pittsburgh after their pass-heavy attack lost steam down the stretch in 2020. Harris’ size, vision and pass-catching ability may remind some of a former Steelers back who had quite a run with the Black and Gold.
Other Considerations – Travis Etienne (RB), Landon Dickerson (C), Liam Eichenberg (OT)
25 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Barmore – DT – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Chris Jones
After finishing in the bottom three in both sacks (18) and rushing yards allowed (153.3 YPG), it doesn’t take a Hall of Fame general manager to realize the Jaguars need help along the defensive line. Not many men his size can move the way Barmore does. He has the tools to develop into a difference maker.
Other Considerations – Trevon Moehrig (S), Landon Dickerson (C), Liam Eichenberg (OT)
26 – Cleveland Browns: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – LB – Notre Dame
NFL Comparison – Telvin Smith
Owusu-Koramoah is the latest new-age, hybrid linebacker that’s trending around the NFL as teams opt to sacrifice size for players who can run and cover. In a division with Lamar Jackson, adding explosive athletes to second level of the defense is a must.
Other Considerations – Jamin Davis (LB), Jayson Oweh (DE), Joe Tryon (DE)
27 – Baltimore Ravens: Landon Dickerson – C – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Frank Ragnow
The center position was an absolute mess last year in Baltimore. Dickerson is a massive, mauling lineman who fits the Ravens’ smash-mouth mentality. His talent sneaks him into the first round despite an ACL tear in December.
Other Considerations – Jayson Oweh (DE), Liam Eichenberg (OT), Jalen Mayfield (OT)
28 – New Orleans Saints: Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida
NFL Comparison – Percy Harvin
Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill aren’t capable of elevating those around them like Drew Brees was, and thus need more playmakers to lean on. Toney is an elite athlete whose burst, agility and contact balance make him deadly with the ball in his hands.
Other Considerations – Greg Newsome II (CB), Rashod Bateman (WR), Levi Onwuzurike (DT)
29 – Green Bay Packers: Greg Newsome II – CB – Northwestern
NFL Comparison – Darius Slay
Green Bay could go in several directions here but opts for a cornerback to pair with Jaire Alexander. As a prospect, Newsome II checks a lot of boxes and has all the tools to be a reliable NFL cover man.
Other Considerations – Jalen Mayfield (OT), Jamin Davis (LB), Rashod Bateman (WR)
30 – Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne – RB – Clemson
NFL Comparison – Jamaal Charles
When your roster is as well rounded as Buffalo’s, you can afford to simply take the best player available. The Bills add a difference-maker at running back who has game-changing ability as both a runner and receiver.
Other Considerations – Jayson Oweh (DE), Asante Samuel Jr. (CB), Joe Tryon (DE)
31 – Kansas City Chiefs: Liam Eichenberg – OT – Notre Dame
NFL Comparison – Riley Reiff
Cutting your two starting offensive tackles is an interesting way to begin an offseason. Physical limitations may cap Eichenberg’s ceiling, but he was well coached at Notre Dame and should be a solid starter in the pros.
Other Considerations – Sam Cosmi (OT), Jayson Oweh (DE), Joe Tryon (DE)
32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trevon Moehrig – S – TCU
NFL Comparison – Jessie Bates
The Buccaneers appear to be locked and loaded for another championship run as they return all 22 starters. With no immediate needs, Tampa selects the best player available. Moehrig is a versatile cover safety who pairs with Antoine Winfield Jr. to give the Bucs an exciting, young safety duo.
Other Considerations – Javonte Williams (RB), Jayson Oweh (DE), Joe Tryon (DE)