Zach's Draft Corner: Final Mock Draft
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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
We are now six days away from the big day, and I think every 49ers fan is feeling an odd combination of excitement, dread, and exhaustion. We all want to see which quarterback the Faithful need to throw their support behind, and who can hopefully bring the Quest for Six to a close. We also want to experience the rest of the weekend to see who will be protecting that quarterback, making plays for that quarterback, and keeping that quarterback in manageable situations.
I tend to only do one of these a year, so here it is: My first-round predictive mock, followed up by rounds 2 through 7 for the 49ers. As this is a predictive mock, I will project this mock without trades. Trades are near impossible to predict, so the exercise can get too convoluted if trades are predicted.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson University
This is like the yawn when you first wake up in the morning. You know it’s coming. You’re just waiting for it.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, Brigham Young University
After you wake up, your dog wakes up, and you say “BIIIIIIIG STRETCHY” when it stretches out because you’re not a monster, but you also know it’s coming and you’re just waiting for it. The day is about to start once your dog stretches, just like the draft is about to start.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State University
The pick most 49ers fans want, and the pick I believe will happen. I don’t know how you can value the run game and accuracy the way Kyle Shanahan does and not see what Justin Fields can do for both. His ability as a deep passer will soften the box, his mobility will give linebackers pause, and his accuracy is the best in this class. He is the ultimate Kyle Shanahan weapon, and I hope he feels the same way.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State University
In my three-year big board, I have every one of these top four quarterbacks rated higher than any other quarterback in the previous two drafts. Trey Lance has a skill set that truly resembles that of a Ryan Tannehill-type quarterback, which is what new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith groomed in Tennessee. While I think it’s best that Lance starts right away, he can sit behind Matt Ryan for a year and hit the ground running in 2022.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Kyle Pitts, TE, University of Florida
The Bengals need a versatile target in the passing game to take their offense to the next level. I looked at the wide receivers here, but the Bengals have a decent corps already with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Pitts is one of the best tight ends we have seen in the past few drafts, and he provides a big body in the middle for Burrow to take advantage of. The wide receiver depth is stronger than the tight end depth in this class, and I think a combination of Pitts and, say, Dyami Brown is better than the combination of Ja’Marr Chase and Pat Freiermuth.
6. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, WR, University of Alabama
The Dolphins have some solid big bodies in the form of Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki. I do believe they are missing a speed element to their offense, and Waddle is the top speed option in this class. While I personally have Chase higher in my rankings, I think the fit is better with Waddle here.
7. Detroit Lions – Penei Sewell, OT, University of Oregon
We all remember Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference with Detroit. He talked about physical play and biting kneecaps. While I don’t quite follow the “kneecap” conversation, I do know that Detroit is absolutely barren at the offensive tackle position. Coming from a Saints team that consistently had one of the best offensive lines in the league, I don’t see Campbell hitching his first draft pick to a wide receiver. Sewell makes too much sense.
8. Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern University
The Panthers are another team in desperate need of offensive line help, and they could use help at any number of positions along the line. Slater is the perfect fit for this situation, as his ceiling is a top-shelf offensive tackle, and his floor is a top-shelf guard. The Panthers will know they have solidified a position on the offensive line for the next decade with this pick, regardless of what that position ends up being.
9. Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State University
If the top four picks go the way I believe, I am almost more confident in saying Denver trades back than with any individual pick here. They may even be able to trade back with, say, Chicago or Washington, and still come away with Parsons. With Vic Fangio still as the captain of the ship, and with new GM George Paton coming from teams with strong defensive pedigrees, I think Denver tries to fill the biggest hole on their defense with an uber-athletic, playmaking linebacker. Again, I think Denver trades back here, but with not projecting trades, this is the pick.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, CB, University of South Carolina
While he is not my top cornerback, I do believe he could be the top cornerback for a Cowboys team that has shown to value flash and playmaking in their skill position players over the dependability of someone like Patrick Surtain. Other minds do have Horn as the top cornerback in this class, so I don’t believe it’s too much of a stretch to say that Horn could be the first one off the board.
11. New York Giants – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Louisiana State University
The Giants walk away with a steal here, especially right before the Eagles are on the clock with a need for a wide receiver. I do think the depth of receiver in this class could lead to Chase and DeVonta Smith falling a little bit, but the fall for Chase stops here.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – DeVonta Smith, WR, University of Alabama
The Eagles have swung on big play receivers as of late, but Jalen Reagor failed to live up to expectations in his first season. The Eagles need a reliable receiver to move the chains on third down, get open in the red zone, and provide some splash plays in between. Smith can be a great weapon in any situation on offense, and he will help Philadelphia see what the ceiling of Jalen Hurts truly is.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech University
The Chargers lucked into the third quarterback off the board last year seeming like he will be the best quarterback in the class when Justin Herbert fell. With an above-average defense, it now becomes important to protect that quarterback investment. Darrisaw’s athleticism will fit in well with a quarterback like Herbert, who works best when he is moving around and creating outside of the pocket.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State University
This may be a reach here, and I can definitely see Minnesota being a prime candidate to trade back if a team that wants Mac Jones wants to move ahead of the Patriots. If such a trade back were to happen, I think that Jenkins would be more digestible to Vikings fans. Even if they stay here, Jenkins is much like Slater in that his floor is a high-end guard if he fails outside. Minnesota needs help all along the offensive line, so Jenkins is a safe pick for a team that simply needs a reliable body protecting Kirk Cousins.
15. New England Patriots – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
I do not think that Bill Belichick wants his final years to be coaching Mac Jones, a prospect with only 17 career starts under his belt. I think Jones will need more grooming than most are willing to admit, and Belichick doesn’t have that long to wait around for that to happen. Instead, he goes back to his roots, where a killer defense brought his team to glory in the early years. “JOK” is the type of versatile weapon that could thrive in a Belichick defense.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Surtain, CB, University of Alabama
Pat replaces Pat here, with Surtain filling the gaping hole left by Peterson leaving Arizona for Minnesota this offseason. Surtain is possibly the most reliable cornerback in this class, and the Arizona defense needs a player who will lock down half the field. Surtain is more talented than a sixteenth pick, which makes Kliff Kingsbury very happy.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Zaven Collins, LB, University of Tulsa
We know a few things here. First and foremost, Gruden is as old-school of a coach as you can get in this league. The Raiders also love athleticism. Finally, the Raiders need a linebacker. At 6’4”, 260 pounds, Collins has the size to satisfy Gruden, but also has the athleticism to satisfy Raiders fans and the front office. He conveniently fills the hole the Raiders have at linebacker and will be a great fit in the new-look black hole of Vegas.
18. Miami Dolphins – Jaelan Phillips, DE, University of Miami
It’s been a long time coming for the first defensive lineman to come off the board, and we finally get it with Jaelan Phillips. Staying local in Miami, Brian Flores comes from the Belichick coaching tree where sound technique is everything. Phillips is a technician with some added bend, which puts him over other edge defenders like Kwity Paye.
19. Washington ??? – Mac Jones, QB, University of Alabama
This is the sweet spot for Jones, unless another team gets antsy and trades up earlier to secure their quarterback of the future. Washington is in the dreaded quarterback purgatory right now, where they are never going to be bad enough to get a top option but never good enough to not look for an upgrade. Jones can at least give Washington what they had previously with Kirk Cousins, who could be good enough to win a few division titles if the team stays strong around him.
20. Chicago Bears – Rashod Bateman, WR, University of Minnesota
The Bears are the team that misses out on the quarterback carousel in this situation, so look for them to potentially be in play for a Day 2 trade for Jimmy Garoppolo. In any case, Allen Robinson is clearly unhappy in Chicago, and the Bears are looking to move on from Anthony Miller. This leaves them with Darnell Mooney, Riley Ridley, and Marquise Goodwin as their top options in the long term. Bateman is as close to the “top three” receivers as you will find in this class. He stays in the Midwest and goes from Minneapolis to Chicago.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech University
Farley was talked about as a top ten pick before deeper dives were done into his back injury. His freefall stops here, where the Colts are too tantalized by the talent to allow him to tumble further. When Farley is on the field, he is the top cornerback in this class. The Colts hope he can stay healthy and be a force on the outside for their defense.
22. Tennessee Titans – Kwity Paye, DE, University of Michigan
Mike Vrabel enjoys himself a hardnosed defensive lineman, which makes Paye a perfect fit for that defensive line that has been filtering players in and out for years. Paye’s side-to-side agility worries me, and I think he is more of a straight-line power rusher. That’s okay with guys like Harold Landry and Bud Dupree on the roster. Paye could even kick inside next to Jeffery Simmons and rush the passer with Landry and Dupree.
23. New York Jets – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue University
This might seem like another reach, but we have made a big deal about the 49ers’ system being implemented in New York. However, the receivers on the roster are Denzel Mims and Corey Davis. Neither are receivers that can fit the Deebo Samuel role that really helps the system go, and Saleh has seen firsthand how important a weapon like that is. Moore is the closest thing we have seen to Samuel in this class, and his talent certainly warrants a first round selection.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris, RB, University of Alabama
Dwayne Haskins buys the Steelers an extra year to see if they have their “quarterback of the future” problem solved. Instead, they fill the biggest hole on their roster, which is the running back position. Harris has a bruising style that fits with the city of Pittsburgh, but the speed to fit a modern offense. Tomlin has turned Le’Veon Bell and James Conner into top-end running backs. Giving him Harris isn’t fair.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Kadarius Toney, WR, University of Florida
The presence of D.J. Chark gives Trevor Lawrence a great big-bodied receiver, but Jacksonville needs help diversifying their wide receiver portfolio. Toney would be an excellent selection to do just that. Toney is a smaller, shiftier receiver who can create separation in his routes and generate yards after the catch. Toney is a great complement to Chark.
26. Cleveland Browns – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern University
Cleveland is a team that has taken plenty of swings and misses at a particular position early in the draft, and they do so again here by swinging for Newsome. This time, they hit, as Newsome is one of the safest prospects at the position in the draft. He is simply a sticky cover man, rarely giving up a big play. He doesn’t play the ball as well as others in the class, but he will finally give Cleveland a reliable player on the outside.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Terrance Marshall Jr., WR, Louisiana State University
Marshall had to play the majority of his career behind talents like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, but he showed how talented he was as the lead weapon this past season. Baltimore has been looking for a receiver capable of taking some pressure off Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown, and Marshall can do just that as a big bodied, athletic talent on the outside.
28. New Orleans Saints – Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
New Orleans attempts to keep themselves out of the dreaded quarterback purgatory by swinging for the fences at the end of the first round. Mond is a high-upside prospect at the quarterback position who could benefit from learning from the great Sean Payton for a year or two before stepping in for Jameis Winston.
29. Green Bay Packers – Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State University
The Packers are built to win now while Aaron Rodgers is not hosting Jeopardy, so they take a pro-ready prospect at the linebacker position to anchor the middle of the defense. Browning played multiple positions in the linebacker group for the Buckeyes and excelled in most aspects of the game. He may not have the upside of a Parsons or a Jamin Davis, but he will contribute immediately.
30. Buffalo Bills – Joe Tryon, DE, University of Washington
Tryon has been gaining steam as of late with his flexibility and athleticism, and I think he works his way into the end of the first round here with Buffalo. For a defensive line that already features Ed Oliver and A.J. Epenesa, Buffalo is really missing that athletic presence off the edge. Tryon can provide that.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State University
After trading Orlando Brown to the Chiefs in exchange for this first round pick, the Ravens need a tackle who can play the right side and can demolish opponents in the run game. That is Radunz to a ‘T’. Radunz can immediately step in and bring some attitude and toughness to the Ravens offensive line.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, University of Southern California
The rich get richer, with Tampa winding up with the best interior offensive lineman in the class. Vera-Tucker drops due to the lack of attention given to guards during the draft process, but steps in to fill a hole on the interior of the Tampa Bay offensive line. Tom Brady is even more protected heading into next season.
43. San Francisco 49ers – Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State University
In this scenario, a few edge defenders fell into the early second round. More specifically, more proven prospects, like Azees Ojulari and Greg Rousseau, find themselves available after the first day concludes. This pushes Oweh down a little, and the 49ers snatch him up. While it is understandable to be concerned about the lack of production, Oweh is built in a similar way to Dee Ford. If Ford can’t remain healthy, Oweh can step in and provide an athletic pass rusher opposite Nick Bosa. Even if Ford does remain healthy, Oweh can rotate in situationally this season and take over full time in 2022 when the 49ers inevitably rid themselves of Ford’s contract.
103. San Francisco 49ers – Benjamin St. Juste, CB, University of Minnesota
St. Juste is a great prospect for what San Francisco wants to do on defense. He has the length and strength to disrupt timing at the line of scrimmage, giving the defensive line additional time to get home. He can stick to receivers and break up contested catches, capitalizing on the hurried throws quarterbacks are expected to make. He can rotate in immediately with Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett while he is being groomed for a full-time role.
118. San Francisco 49ers – Kendrick Green, IOL, University of Illinois
Green is an athletic interior lineman that needs to be in a zone scheme to find success. Thankfully for the 49ers, that’s exactly the scheme they can run. He is the selection over fellow athletic lineman Drew Dalman because Green has a little extra bulk that will allow him to play guard early on in his career while Alex Mack anchors the middle of the line. When Mack moves on from football, Green has the intelligence to move inside to center and be Kyle Shanahan’s long-term answer at the position.
156. San Francisco 49ers – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State University
My love for Hubbard has been well-documented. Hubbard is the perfect running back for a zone scheme that values speed, decisiveness, vision, and agility. Hubbard could be a perennial 1,200-plus-yard runner in Shanahan’s system.
173. San Francisco 49ers – Walker Little, OT, Stanford University
It’s truly a shame that he could fall this far, but it’s realistic in the times of COVID. Little was heralded as a first-round prospect in 2019 before an injury ended his season early. He sat out 2020 because of the pandemic, so he has not played a football game in nearly 18 months at this point. However, that does not change my evaluation of him that he is an athletic, well-rounded tackle whose only issue is that he can sometimes overextend when making blocks at the second level. If the only issue he has is aiming run blocks against linebackers, I will take the chance on him here in the fifth round.
181. San Francisco 49ers – Cade Johnson, WR, South Dakota State University
A lightly-recruited prospect coming out of high school, Johnson was a highly productive receiver against low levels of competition. He lit up the Senior Bowl, routinely making FBS opponents look silly in coverage. It’s easy to see how Johnson could provide value from the slot position for the 49ers.
195. San Francisco 49ers – Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR, University of Illinois
The 49ers double up on Day 3 receivers here, this time selecting Imatorbhebhe. With Justin Fields at quarterback, the 49ers need a receiver who can take advantage of his strong arm to be a deep threat on the outside. Imatorbhebhe is that player. While he was not able to show a wide variety of skills at Illinois, at the very least, the respect defenders will need to give to his speed will allow him to work underneath as well. When the 49ers want to kick Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk inside, Imatorbhebhe can be the outside weapon to propel this new offense.
231. San Francisco 49ers – Tariq Thompson, S, San Diego State University
Thompson has many shades of Jimmie Ward to me in the way that he is a willing participant in run defense, can defend out of the slot, and also play in deep zones. An injury slowed him down in 2020, but I believe he has the ability to be a contributor on defense. He can step in and play special teams immediately, while providing valuable depth in a secondary that desperately needs it.
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