By Adam Sznapstajler


Let me take a moment to introduce Adam Sznapstajler.  Adam will be writing a weekly column as well as serving as our resident NFL Draft expert.

If you think I’m kidding about the second portion of the above statement, check out Adam’s 2021 Mock Draft.  You’ll see quickly that he’s spend a lot of time and effort “digging deep” into what he believes will happen on Thursday.

We’ll make sure that we review his prognostications in a later column.  Until then, enjoy.

After a closed door, zoom draft in 2020 it will be nice to start to get back to somewhat normal conditions this year. With San Francisco trading up it all but guaranteed that the first three picks will be quarterbacks and, since it seems the first two quarterbacks penciled in, that leaves all eyes on San Francisco with the first decision that will set the tone of the night. Although it seems many in the NFL community believe that the 49ers traded up for Mac Jones, I still think that is a smokescreen (I just don’t see why).

No matter who the 49ers pick I would not be surprised if the top 4 picks, maybe even top 5 picks were all quarterbacks leaving teams like the Dolphins and Bengals with their choices of elite non-QB talent. This also leaves some elite talent like Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Micah Parsons further down in the first round.

With 5 teams already moving spots this year’s draft has already been filled with storylines and has the potential for many more. Well on to the picks:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson This one is a no brainer. Despite the questions of his drive anything other than Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick would be a mistake. Take Lawrence and spend the next 10-15 years building a great franchise around this once in a generation talent.

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU In another pick that seems like a forgone conclusion, the Jets go with Wilson here. Although I do not see the upside over Justin Fields, it seems the entire NFL community has decided Wilson is going at 2. His improvising and flair should make him a fun watch but, given his competition at BYU, I worry about his NFL future. He does seem to be ready to play in New York though, which is a plus.

3. San Francisco 49ers: QB Justin Fields, Ohio St When SF traded multiple firsts for the 3rd overall pick it pretty much set in stone that they would be taking a quarterback here. Although the industry seems to be pointing Mac Jones toward SF, I just don’t see it. You don’t trade up to 3 for arguably the 5th best QB in the draft. Mac Jones provides immediate upside that Fields does not have, but the current play level combined with future potential makes it irresponsible not to go with Fields here.

4. Denver Broncos (from ATL): QB Mac Jones, Alabama TRADE: Atlanta sends 4, 2022 3rd Round Pick to Denver for 9, 71, 2022 1st Round Pick In the first trade of the night Atlanta trades down to 9, picking up a third and 2022 first round pick along the way. With a win now defense, a quality offensive infrastructure including the promising WR Courtland Sutton, Denver takes the win now QB at 4. Although I still think this is too high for Jones, John Elway loves his QB, and Jones should fill in immediately at QB for what might be a sneaky playoff contender.

5. Detroit Lions (from Cin): WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU TRADE: Cincinnati sends 5, 149 to Detroit for 7, 101, 2022 2nd Round Pick Back-to-back trades! Cincinnati picks up a third and a 2022 second to move down two spots. With the 5th pick Detroit replaces Kenny Golladay with a wide receiver who is a whole lot better. Chase should raise the play of Jarred Goff and provide Detroit with a top of the league talent for when they do get their next franchise quarterback.

6. Miami Dolphins: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida With Chase going at 5, the Dolphins now happily take who they originally wanted at 3 before they traded down and stocked up on more picks. There is not much that can be said to knock Pitts. His production, size, and skills all speak for themselves. I believe Pitts will be a future All Pro, and possibly a Hall of Famer. The Dolphins pair him with another athletic freak in Mike Gesicki and take advantage of the mismatches that are tight ends in the modern game.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (from Det): T Penei Sewell, Oregon The Bengals picked up a 2022 2nd from a potential worst team in the league to move down two sports and still get the man they wanted all along. After investing essentially a first round pick (33rd overall) in Tee Higgins and another good wide receiver in Tyler Boyd, the Bengals can wait and take a wide receiver later in one of the deeper wide receiver drafts in a while. Instead, the Bengals get possible the best player in the draft that will protect their franchise quarterback for years to come.

8. Carolina Panthers: T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern Giving up a second round pick for Sam Darnold, there is no reason to reach for the unproven Lance here. Instead, the Panthers take the second best offensive lineman in the draft so they can get a true reading on what their new QB acquisition has. And if it doesn’t work out then they will have a quality tackle to protect their next QB.

9. Atlanta Falcons (from Den): CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama After trading down the Falcons take the best defensive back off the board. Surtain II will help anchor a secondary that will need to play an increased role as Matt Ryan ages. Despite a new power structure, I just don’t see the Falcons bailing on their franchise quarterback anytime soon so the best alternative will be beefing up the defense.

10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina Kicking themselves that Surtain II does not drop to them, the Cowboys take the next best thing with Horn. All the physicality, just without the name brand, Horn will start on day one for a defense that desperately needs his presence. If Surtain II is still available though, I guarantee you he will be the pick here.

11. New England Patriots (from NYG): QB Trey Lance, South Dakota TRADE: NYG sends 11, 116, 2022 4th Round Pick to New England for 15, 96, 2022 2nd Round Pick Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, Jacoby Brissett, the list goes on and these are just the quarterbacks that Bill Belichick took when he still had Tom Brady. Now that Brady is gone, Belichick has already shown his willingness to rethink the position playing style by signing Cam Newton. Now he takes his chance with the most intriguing QB prospect. Lance can sit behind Newton this season as he learns from the best. For a player that needs time and a coaching staff to unlock his potential there could not be a better place.

12. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Micah Parsons, Penn St The Eagles have a lot of holes, but they can do a lot worse than the best defensive player in the draft. A Pennsylvania native, Parsons can stay home and anchor a defense that needs a lot of help. The Eagles should consider taking a WR again in the first round but, given their history, I would recommend taking the safe pick and value in Parsons here.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech This one is simple. A franchise QB needs a solid tackle and Darrisaw is the best available here. The Chargers take Darrisaw here and help ensure Herbert stays healthy for the next 10 years.

14. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan Minnesota adds to their built-up defense with Paye here. The Vikings beef up their pass rush in a division that includes one of the best QBs in football. As Aaron Rodgers ages I would continue to add fast, elite defenders to keep the pressure on.

15. New York Giants (from NE): WR Devonta Smith, Alabama After moving down from 11 the Giants get their dream scenario with Smith still available. Plugging him across from Kenny Golladay, along with Saquon Barkley, gives Daniel Jones a repertoire of weapons that should lead to a fun offensive future for the Giants.

16. Baltimore Ravens (from ARI): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama TRADE: Arizona sends 16 to Bal for 27, 94, 2022 2nd Round Pick The Ravens take advantage of their newly acquired draft capital to trade one of their firsts for the chance to finally get Lamar Jackson some more weapons and draft Waddle here. Waddle will finally give Lamar Jackson a consistent offensive weapon that will hopefully allow him to expand his game.

17. Green Bay Packers (from LV): WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota TRADE: Las Vegas sends 17, 79, 2022 2nd Round Pick to Green Bay for 29, 92, 2022 1st Round Pick After drafting his replacement in 2021, the Packers draft Aaron Rodgers (and maybe his future replacement) some more help. Bateman is an extremely polished wide receiver and, along with Devante Adams, will give Aaron Rodgers a bunch of toys to play with.

18. Miami Dolphins: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami With their second pick in the first round the Dolphins keep Phillips in Miami. Shaq Lawson is gone, and Phillips will immediately provide the Dolphins with elite pass rushing ability. Although he has an injury history, the value in undeniable here and worth the risk for Miami.

19. Washington Football Team: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason, it seems that the Washington Football team is going all in with its defense this year. If that is the case, Owusu-Koramoah gives Ron Rivera an extremely talented linebacker to contribute to a Super Bowl caliber defense.

20. Chicago Bears: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech Missing out on the top tier wide receivers and Bateman, the Bears replace Kyle Fuller with another CB out of Virginia Tech with Caleb Farley. Farley will help a secondary of a talented defense that has struggled to make big plays the past two years. There is some risk but hitting on Farley will give the Bears an elite Fuller replacement.

21. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia The Colts consider Vera-Tucker here because they need offensive line help but instead opt to go with Ojulari who will replace the production they lost from Justin Houston leaving.

22. Tennessee Titans: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern Tennessee had major issues in its secondary last year and Newsome II will come in and make an immediate difference. For a team that’s path to a Super Bowl is through an elite running game, drafting Newsome II will give the defense the boost it needs to stop game scripts from getting away.

23. New York Jets: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn St After getting their QB of the future with the #2 overall pick, the Jets use their second pick in the first round to draft a lengthy, talented edge rusher with high upside. Since it is their second pick, the Jets can take the risk here and if they hit on Oweh, he could be terrorizing AFC East QBs for years to come.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama With James Conner moving on and Ben Roethlisberger aging quickly, the Steelers draft a RB that can more than replace Connor and carry the load as Big Ben gets older. Although there are only rare occasions, I would use a first round pick on a running back, Harris is a generational talent at the position and has that perfect tough mentality of the AFC North.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU Moehrig will bring size and physicality to the Jaguars defense. For a team that is not going to be that great this season, Moehrig is the type of hardnosed player you want to build your team around. After getting their QB for the future with the first pick, the Jaguars get the quarterback for the defense of the future.

26. Cleveland Browns: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama Browns fans must be salivating here. Adding Barmore to a defensive line with Myles Garret and Jadaveon Clowney should put terror in the eyes of offenses everywhere.

27. Arizona Cardinals (from BAL): CB Asante Samuel Jr, Florida St The Cardinals have the perfect replacement for Patrick Peterson waiting for them here. Samuel is a ball hawk and should be able to cover the best wide receivers in the division and create enough turnovers to put Kyler Murray in good positions.

28. New Orleans Saints: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa I considered having the Saints trade down here but in Collins they get a linebacker who can do it all. Still growing, Collins will provide versatility on a defense that will probably have to keep scores low given their potential QB play. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did trade down and draft Kyle Trask in the second round or picking a wide receiver like Rondale Moore to add to Sean Payton’s scheme.

29. Las Vegas Raiders (from GB): T/G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC With holes everywhere on the offensive line, and a QB named Carr, the Raiders use this pick to solidify that line. Vera-Tucker projects as an interior guard but still has the potential to play tackle. For a line with as many holes as the Raiders have, a versatile player like Vera-Tucker, after trading down, is a steal.

30. Buffalo Bills: RB Travis Ettiene, Clemson The second RB comes off the board here Ettiene, who will immediately come in and give the Bills game breaking ability at running back that Devin Singletary or Zack Moss has not. Ettiene joins one of the league’s best offenses and gives Josh Allen an offensive weapon akin to what Christian McCaffrey is in Carolina (more like a poor man’s Christian McCaffrey).

31. Baltimore Ravens: T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama After trading up with their original pick to get Lamar Jackson some help, this time they get him some protection. The Ravens draft Orlando Brown Jr’s replacement here with the pick they got for him. Leatherwood should be able to start from Day One and, given his ability to play inside, provides Baltimore with interior depth as well.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami Champa Bay is returning all 22 starters this upcoming season, a first for a defending Super Bowl champion. However, they do have some aging pieces on the defensive line like JPP and Suh who will most likely be gone in 2-3 years. Rousseau gives immediate depth to an already stellar defensive line and can take over in a couple years as spots open. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs trade down here and pick up future picks or possibly *gasp* draft Kyle Trask here as Tom Brady’s heir apparent.