NFL teams don’t use The Draft Network’s draft simulator to make picks. The whole league doesn’t work off a singular model for where players are valued and in a year where variance reigns among prospects thanks to 2020 opt-outs and a lack of uniform athletic testing, more than ever we’re going to see players with third-round grades in the first and vice versa. So to try and drill down a little to figure out what most people think about prospects, we put together a mock that combines a group of opinions and went from there.
First, we put together a big board using rankings from The Athletic, ESPN, NFL Network, The Ringer, Pro Football Focus, and The Draft Network. A total of 31 players filled out the top-50 on every single board. These are your most likely first-round picks, at least in this scenario. Unfortunately some of the rankings will be outdated almost immediately as new boards come out, but this is where we stand as of this writing.
Another 44 players showed up on top-50 lists, which, in retrospect reflects more uniformity than we might expect with 75 players making the top-50. We averaged their rankings and how often they made each list to put together their consensus value. Arif Hasan at The Athletic puts out a much more comprehensive consensus board every year, but not until closer to the draft. We didn’t feel like waiting.
We did project a few trades based on how the board fell, but tried to stick to the board as much as possible.
1.Jacksonville Jaguars — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This is happening. We don’t need any special indexed prospect rankings for this one. The Jaguars get the best quarterback prospect since at least Andrew Luck, and maybe longer.
This is also happening. The Jets’ affinity for the swagged-out BYU signal caller is the worst-kept secret in the NFL right now. His impressive pro day performance will just be icing on the cake.
I’d draft Trey Lance here (I would have taken him at No. 2), but that’s not the point of this exercise. Fields not only fits the Kyle Shanahan offense, but he’s the consensus QB3 in this draft. Daniel Jeremiah from NFL Network told Robert Mays on The Athletic Football Show, the league consensus (on-brand for our purposes) has Mac Jones in this spot specifically for the 49ers.
4. Atlanta Falcons — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Even with a restructured Matt Ryan, the Falcons can plan for the future with a quarterback ideally suited to new head coach Arthur Smith’s Shanahan-tree system. Lance has as much upside as any quarterback in the draft save for Lawrence. The Falcons with Ryan likely won’t pick this high again, so take your QB and get a chance to win now, while setting your future up down the road. Plus, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has been saying for weeks that he believes it’s 4 QBs in the top 4.
5. Cincinnati Bengals — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Ja’Marr Chase is considered the better prospect, but Joe Burrow missed the season with a torn ACL in part because the Bengals tempted fate with his pass protection. It was terrible and he got hurt. Sewell would be a Day 1 starter at a priority position and helps keep their franchise player on the field.
A terrific trade down to 12 and then a questionable trade-up to 6 still lands the Dolphins the best non-QB prospect in the draft. If they’re going to let Tua Tagovailoa prove he’s the franchise quarterback, pairing Davante Parker with Chase will be the best way to do it.
7. Detroit Lions — Kyle Pitts, TE/WR, Florida
A coach like Dan Campbell could target a player like Rashawn Slater to beef up the offensive line, but remember Campbell is a tight ends coach. Yes, Detroit has T.J. Hockenson, but Kyle Pitts tested like a receiver and immediately becomes the No. 1 option for the Lions. He’s the No. 4 overall player by this board.
8. Carolina Panthers— Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
There are a pair of Alabama receivers along with Micah Parsons rated higher on our board, but the Panthers poured resources into the linebacker position in free agency and still need plenty of help along the offensive line. If they can’t swing a trade for a quarterback—a possibility opened up if the 49ers really do take Jones— this is the smart pick.
9. Denver Broncos — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Vic Fangio may be a player’s coach, but he’s also an old school coach, and the allegations around Parsons’ hazing at Penn State could draw Denver away here. Don’t rule them out as a quarterback trade-up team if Fields or Lance falls but, absent a trade, they get arguably the best defender in the draft at a need position.
10. Dallas Cowboys — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
On pure talent, Caleb Farley might have otherwise been the pick here given his ideal fit in Dan Quinn’s zone-heavy scheme, but he’s coming off multiple back surgeries and won’t have worked out before the draft. Surtain jumped him as CB1 post-back surgery, so the Cowboys are not giving up much to take the most fundamentally sound cornerback in the draft.
11. New York Giants — Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The best players on the board here are a pair of Alabama receivers, but Dave Gettleman invested heavily there in the offseason. Despite the massive deal given to Leonard Williams and draft capital spent on pass rushers, the Giants don’t bring much juice with a four-man rush. Paye, who remains a work-in-progress, gives them the best chance to ignite this front and feels like the kind of guy Gettleman would just want to pick.
12. Philadelphia Eagles — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
If this were another team, DeVonta Smith might feel like the safer way to go, but Waddle ranks higher, at least by our averages, and new head coach Nick Caserio comes from Indianapolis where they built an offense around the explosive speed of T.Y. Hilton. Between Waddle and Jalen Reagor, this offense could give defenses nightmares.
Another team might prioritize Jaycee Horn, the better pure man cornerback and an absolute monster in coverage. But Farley profiles as the best zone corner in the draft, with size, athleticism, and ball skills. He’s the perfect fit for new head coach Brandon Staley’s defense and with Casey Hayward released for salary cap reasons, Farley can step right in and play assuming he’s healthy. He’s CB2 in our rankings even with the back questions.
14. Minnesota Vikings — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Another Hokie back-to-back as the Vikings desperately try to rebuild a front that keeps getting Kirk Cousins killed. They could (and maybe should) opt for DeVonta Smith here given the flexibility of their current receivers to play in the slot, but Darrisaw could be an opening day starter and fills a greater need.
15. New England Patriots — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
No telling if this pick will be made before or after they trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, but it’s hard to imagine a better overlap of skill and need, not to mention Bill Belichick’s relationship with Nick Saban. The Heisman Trophy winner becomes the centerpiece of the offense in New England with a new quarterback and Belichick finally gets off the schneid drafting receivers.
16. Arizona Cardinals — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
The No. 1 priority for the Cardinals is to keep Kyler Murray healthy. His running ability proved too vital to this team last year for it not to likewise prioritize his protection. They traded for Rodney Hudson and signed Brian Winters, but Vera-Tucker can be a long-tern solution along with Josh Jones from last year. He’s iOL1 in this draft assuming Slater plays tackle.
17. Las Vegas Raiders — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Horn won’t be a perfect fit if Raiders’ DC Gus Bradley insists on playing Cover-3 every snap given Horn’s press man abilities, but he’s too talented to pass here at a need position. Horn, a physical, domineering presence, matches with the Raiders persona. He has star potential if he’s allowed to do what he does best.
18. Miami Dolphins — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Linebacker has been a bug-a-boo position for the Dolphins and after finding the offensive weapon for Tua, the Dolphins shift their attention to defense with a heat-seeking missile at linebacker. It’s not hard to envision Brian Flores putting JOK all over the field.
19. Washington Football Team — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
I could see Washington as a sneaky trade-up team come draft day, especially if Jones goes at No. 3. Most of the best players likely to be available to WFT at this spot fall on the defensive side of the ball where this team has few obvious needs. Trading up for Lance or Fields would be a dream for Ron Rivera and Co.
20. Chicago Bears — Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy need to prop up Andy Dalton at all costs. With Allen Robinson on the outside and Darnell Mooney taking the top off of defenses, Toney can thrive from the slot on quick throws underneath with the chance to make plays after the catch. If they’re going to truly challenge Green Bay in the NFC North, they need more playmakers. This is a bit of a reach, but I don’t see Chicago trading down despite the glut of pass rushers teams may want to move up to grab.
21. Indianapolis Colts — Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
I could see the Colts going offensive line here, but Phillips fills the void left by Justin Houston who has yet to re-sign in Indianapolis. Plus, in the AFC, if your front can’t pressure with four, you just have no shot against teams like the Chiefs in the playoff race.
The two best players on the board are pass rushers and a team can never have too many, but this secondary for the Titans needs work too. Moehrig provides versatility as a safety who can cover in the slot as well. His malleability with Kevin Byard’s playmaking would be an excellent combination.
23. New York Jets — Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Get the passer with the No. 2 pick and the pass rusher at 23. The popular pick here has been Travis Etienne or Najeh Harris, and while that could be in play with Mike LaFleur now running the show, Joe Douglass seems to understand positional value better than the old regime. Adding a playmaker to pair with free agent acquisition Carl Lawson helps this team more than a running back.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Losing Bud Dupree hurts a team relying on its defense, but pick 24 offers a reprieve with arguably the best EDGE in the draft. Right now, Ojulari may be undervalued by the consensus but on the other side from T.J. Watt, he projects as an instant contributor. Much like with the Jets, Etienne would be a sleeper here too.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars — Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
With Trevor Lawrence in the fold, the Jaguars can take aim on the best defensive player left on the board. Collins may lack the true athleticism to be a MIKE linebacker in the NFL, but with Myles Jack and Joe Schobert already in the fold, Collins slides in well at the SAM when they go to traditional 4-3 fronts. New DC Joe Cullen says the team plans to be multiple but will play based on personnel. If it turns out they want to play more 3-4, they could go with Teven Jenkins to secure the offensive line.
26. Cleveland Browns — Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Cleveland added John Johnson III to give them bona fide playmakers on the back line to go with Myles Garrett upfront and Denzel Ward on the outside. Now they have to secure the middle and the instinctive, playmaking Bolton can help with that. His solid pro day solidifies his spot in the first round.
27. Baltimore Ravens — Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
With Marquise Brown taking the top off defenses, Bateman can work underneath with his sterling route running and run-after-catch ability. Baltimore could opt for Terrance Marshall here as well with his blend of size and playmaking. They need someone who can get them 8 yards on 3rd-and-6. That’s Bateman.
28. New Orleans Saints — Terrance Marshall, WR, LSU
If they’re going to roll with Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill (lol), they need more weapons in this offense to go with Michael Thomas. Whether it’s Winston chucking it deep from the pocket or Hill attacking downfield off play-action, Marshall plays off Michael Thomas in the optimal way for the Saints.
I has to be a cornerback right? Here’s the thing: there’s no real consensus that another player belongs in the first round. Instead, the Packers grab the best non-running back left on the board (Travis Etienne is the highest-graded guy), allow themselves short-term insurance as well as a potential long-term solution at right tackle.
30. Buffalo Bills — Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Buffalo could go defense here, but the best player on the board fills a need. The Bills dismissed the run game almost entirely at times last year, and for good reason: the passing game was really good. Etienne is a true game-breaker with his speed and explosiveness. Sure they couldn’t stop the Chiefs, but you can always try to outscore them.
31. Kansas City Chiefs — Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
This would have been a logical landing spot for Alabama’s Christian Barmore, but the Chiefs just signed Jarran Reed to play with Chris Jones. A physical marvel with undeveloped technique, Oweh won’t likely be able to come in right away and be a playmaker, but he’ll be able to play in spurts while he grows.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Tampa just re-signed Ndamukong Suh, but they also saw what a difference a healthy Vita Vea made last season. Barmore doesn’t quite dominate like that yet, but he would be a terrific rotational defensive linemen, keeping Suh and Vea fresh and providing them with an even deep front to cause nightmares for opponents.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars — Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington
34. New York Jets — Najeh Harris, RB, Alabama
35. Atlanta Falcons — Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
36. Miami Dolphins — Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
37. Philadelphia Eagles — Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
39. Carolina Panthers — Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
40. Denver Broncos — Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
41. Detroit Lions — Jabrill Cox, LB, LSU
42. New York Giants — Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan
43. San Francisco 49ers — Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
44. Dallas Cowboys — Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest
45. Jacksonville Jaguars — Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
46. New England Patriots — Rondale Moore, Weapon, Purdue
47. Los Angeles Chargers — Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
48. Las Vegas Raiders — Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
49. Arizona Cardinals — Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
50. Miami Dolphins — Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
51. Washington Football Team — Jamis Davis, LB, Kentucky
52. Chicago Bears — Samuel Cosmi, OL, Texas
53. Tennessee Titans — Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF
54. Indianapolis Colts — Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson
55. Pittsburgh Steelers — Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
56. Seattle Seahawks — Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
57. Los Angeles Rams — Richie Grant, DB, UCF
58. Baltimore Ravens — Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
59. Cleveland Browns — Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
60. New Orleans Saints — Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
61. Buffalo Bills — Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
62. Green Bay Packers — Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
63. Kansas City Chiefs — James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
64. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Walker Little, OT, Stanford