Zach's Draft Corner: Breaking Down the New Top 10 and What Teams Should Do
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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
It’s been about a week since the fateful Friday where John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan decided to wreck everyone’s productivity by packaging a bevy of picks to trade up to third overall. Soon thereafter, Miami traded back into the top ten by swapping picks with Philadelphia, completing, at least for now, the shakeup to the draft order. Now that the dust has settled, it is a good time to check in with team needs and where they may look with their first-round pick.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
This pick always has been, and should always, be Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars should make this boring, but Trent Baalke is pulling the trigger. Trevor Lawrence’s ACLs are too intact for him.
2. New York Jets
It seems almost definite at this point that the Jets are taking their quarterback of the future here. It also seems almost definite that the target is Zach Wilson. With Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur making their way to New York, Wilson seems like a great fit for everything a young team wants to accomplish. Wilson can improvise behind a lackluster offensive line, utilize tall and explosive receivers (Denzel Mims and Corey Davis), and throw with accuracy. Also, while Saleh worked with Kyle Shanahan recently, Saleh got his start in the NFL in Seattle with Russell Wilson. Zach Wilson shares many traits with Russell, and that could be the quarterback Saleh wants to bank his legacy on.
There is a chance that the Jets will go for a different quarterback here (i.e., Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones), but they are almost certainly going quarterback with this pick.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The top three picks in the 2021 NFL Draft should be three quarterbacks. While there is discussion about Mac Jones, there shouldn’t be. He is clearly QB5 in this class. While Shanahan values quarterbacks who can throw with accuracy from the pocket, he also requires a minimal ability to roll outside of the pocket on a bootleg and deliver an accurate pass. That is not McCorkle’s game.
Rather, it seems like the choice is between Justin Fields and Trey Lance. I am leaning Fields, but I can also see, and justify, Trey Lance as the pick here. However, it will most certainly be a quarterback.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Now is where things get interesting. With three of the top five quarterbacks off the board, Atlanta will have to decide between three possibilities. Do the Falcons draft their succession plan for Matt Ryan? Do they take advantage of Denver or New England being desperate for their quarterback of the future (sorry, Carolina; Atlanta isn’t trading with you)? Or does Atlanta take advantage of every top non-quarterback talent being available to them so that they can give it one more run with Ryan?
I can honestly see them going in any of these directions. Penei Sewell and Kyle Pitts would both fit as plug-and-play improvements to the Atlanta offense. Micah Parsons would give Atlanta a linebacker of the likes they haven’t seen since the days of Jessie Tuggle. If Trey Lance is the available quarterback, he is also the perfect development project to sit behind Matt Ryan for a few seasons. Atlanta is the spot where the draft will really begin to take shape.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have to be ecstatic the way things are working. The Bengals have huge needs at wide receiver, offensive tackle, and tight end, and there is a decent chance that the top option at each of these positions will be available to them here. They could take this opportunity to trade back with Carolina to get some extra picks and still get their guy.
Say Atlanta takes Sewell. If Carolina moves up, they will take a quarterback. That leaves Miami and Detroit standing between Cincinnati and their next pick. This means Cincinnati would still have one of Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonte Smith, and Kyle Pitts available to them with the eighth pick. Cincinnati is set up for success, regardless of whether they want to guarantee they get “their guy” or take the best remaining player.
6. Miami Dolphins
Miami is the only rival to San Francisco for having a large amount of talent while also drafting high, thanks to Houston and multiple trades. Although they have a good squad, they have committed to building behind Tua Tagovailoa, at least for the time being. This means he will need playmakers on offense.
Luckily for Miami, even after trading back, one of the top receivers or Kyle Pitts will be available for them. Penei Sewell could also be available if they want to protect their investment. Later in the first round, I wouldn’t be surprised if they reunite Tagovailoa with Najee Harris. It might be a full-on Alabama East if they decide to go with one of Smith or Jaylen Waddle with this pick here.
7. Detroit Lions
This is the pick with the most variance in the top ten. Detroit could go anywhere here. They need receiver help after Kenny Golladay fled to the Giants. They need cornerback help, even if Jeffrey Okudah takes a big step forward this year. They need help all along the offensive line. They could also go completely off the board with Kyle Pitts if they want to run two tight end sets with T.J. Hockenson. They could even surprise everyone and go quarterback if they don’t trust Jared Goff. Detroit is a complete wild card here.
8. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers wanted to be aggressive for a quarterback. Unfortunately, with San Francisco trading up and Atlanta likely wanting a premium to give a division rival their quarterback of the future, Carolina might be reliant on Atlanta taking a non-quarterback fourth overall and being able to trade up with Cincinnati.
There is a chance Mac Jones falls to them here. Matt Rhule seemed impressed with him at the Senior Bowl, so you can’t rule that out here. If Carolina wants to punt on the quarterback position with hopes of the Deshaun Watson situation panning out or just waiting until next year, Carolina could go in a few directions here. The next best lineman after Sewell could be the move here (e.g., Rashawn Slater or Christian Darrisaw). They could also fortify their secondary with one of Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II. An offensive playmaker to go with Christian McCaffery and D.J. Moore could also be the move.
9. Denver Broncos
The Broncos beat writers seem to think it’s highly unlikely Denver makes a selection here at no. 9. The consensus seems to be Denver will either actively try to trade up for a quarterback or will trade back to gather more draft capital. Denver has a very talented defense outside of the linebacker position, so trading back to a more comfortable spot to select a player like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Baron Browning, or Jamin Davis could be the move. Denver’s pick will likely depend on the cost it takes to move up, so keep an eye on them to move around.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas would likely be picking much later if it wasn’t for the Dak Prescott injury, so expect them to take a high impact player with this opportunity. I foresee Dallas going with either a cornerback or an offensive lineman with this pick. I think I can comfortably narrow this pick down to one of Rashawn Slater, Christian Darrisaw, Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II, and Jaycee Horn.
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