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NFL reveals plans for 2021 draft in Cleveland; Patriots land bonus pick; free agency grades for all 32 teams

NFL reveals plans for 2021 draft in Cleveland; Patriots land bonus pick; free agency grades for all 32 teams

I was going to spend the first five minutes of today’s newsletter bragging about my bracket, but that thing has been in the trash since Friday because that’s what happens when you pick Ohio State to win it all. Thanks for nothing Ohio State. 

Speaking of Ohio, that’s where the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be held this year and with less than 40 days to go until the event kicks off, the NFL finally decided to answer some key questions about the draft. We’ll be covering those details plus handing out some free agency grades today, so let’s get to the rundown.  

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link. If their bracket is busted, signing them up for the newsletter will be a nice way to help them cope with the pain. 

1. Today’s show: Mock Draft Monday

Justin Fields
Getty Images

From now until the draft starts on April 29, every Monday will be Mock Draft Monday on the podcast. What this means is that we’ll be bringing in our draft gurus each week to talk about how they think the draft will play out. This week, that means Will Brinson was joined by the one and only Ryan Wilson. I thought for sure the two of them would spend at least 30 minutes of the show talking about how bad Oral Roberts busted their bracket, but apparently, Brinson remembered that he’s not hosting an NCAA podcast, so he stuck to football. Brinson almost never sticks to football. 

The main topic of today’s podcast was Wilson giving us the lowdown on what kind of impact the first week of free agency might have on the draft. For instance, before free agency started, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the Giants were thinking about taking a wide receiver in the first round. However, now that the team has signed Kenny Golladay, there’s roughly a zero chance that the Giants will be using their first-round pick on a receiver. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 10 picks in Wilson’s latest mock and because Wilson loves to get crazy, he even has TWO trades going down in his top 10 this week. 

  • 1. Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
  • 2. Panthers (MOCK TRADE WITH JETS): QB Justin Fields (Ohio State)
  • 3. Dolphins: WR Ja’Marr Chase (LSU)
  • 4. Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts (Florida)
  • 5. Bengals: Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)
  • 6. 49ers (MOCK TRADE WITH EAGLES): QB Zach Wilson (BYU)
  • 7. Lions: WR Devonta Smith (Alabama)
  • 8. Jets (MOCK TRADE WITH PANTHERS): QB Mac Jones (Alabama)  
  • 9. Broncos: CB Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech)
  • 10. Cowboys: OL Penei Sewell (Oregon)

To see the details of each trade and to check out the rest of Wilson’s mock draft, be sure to click here.

To listen to today’s episode — and to subscribe to the podcast — be sure to click here

2. NFL reveals plans for 2021 draft in Cleveland

After holding the draft in Roger Goodell’s basement last year due to the pandemic, the NFL has decided to move things out of the commissioner’s house for 2021. This year’s draft was previously scheduled to be in Cleveland and that’s exactly where it will be held. 

The league confirmed on Monday that when the draft kicks off on April 29, it will look like the draft that you became accustomed to watching before the pandemic hit. 

  • Location. The draft will be held all around Cleveland with FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center all playing a part in the event. 
  • Prospects expected to attend. The NFL will be inviting multiple top prospects to attend, which means we should be getting some nice elbow taps between them and Goodell (No hugs though, they’re against pandemic rules). If a prospect is uncomfortable attending the draft, that won’t be an issue, because the NFL will also be inviting them to participate virtually. 
  • Team war rooms. NFL teams will be allowed to use their facility as their war room this year. During last year’s draft, everyone was forced to draft from home, which created some pretty unique setups. Sadly, we won’t be getting that this year. I’ll miss Bill Belichick’s dog, Kliff Kingsbury’s bachelor pad and whoever those people in costume were at Mike Vrabel’s house. 
  • Draft on TV. As always, the draft will be a three-day event. The first two days of the draft (April 29-30) are televised in prime time while the third day (Saturday, May 1) is an all-day affair. 

The NFL will be announcing more details about the draft over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.  

3. Patriots land bonus pick after NFL finalizes 2021 draft selections

I didn’t expect to start things off today with THREE STRAIGHT draft topics, but here we are. To be honest,  you should probably start getting used to all this draft talk, because there’s going to be a lot of it between now and April 29. 

Anyway, the NFL finalized the draft order over the weekend and although that’s not usually a very notable event, it was this year, because the league managed to sneak in a few previously unknown nuggets. 

  • Patriots land a bonus pick. Apparently, someone at the NFL misread the league’s formula for handing compensatory picks, because the Patriots were shorted one when the league originally handed out compensatory picks on March 10. To make up for that, the Patriots were given a bonus pick, which is the 177th overall pick (33rd pick in the fifth round). 
  • Vikings get docked a pick. The Vikings actually had a pick taken away from them. The team was forced to forfeit the 242nd overall pick due to a salary cap violation that involved a practice squad player. If you want to read more details on that situation, be sure to click here
  • Raiders don’t end up losing a pick. A few months ago, the Raiders were docked a sixth-round pick for violating the league’s COVID protocols, but they’ve now been given that pick back after winning an appeal
  • Saints lose a pick, but not until next year. The Saints also got stripped of a pick due to repeated COVID violations, but they won’t lose any picks in this year’s draft. Instead, the Saints will have to forfeit a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft

If you get bored today and would like to check out the entire draft order, be sure to click here. 

4. Top 10 free agents left on the market

Melvin Ingram
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Free agency got off to a slow start for wide receivers, but that all change over the weekend with multiple receivers signing between Friday and Sunday. The fun started on Friday when JuJu Smith-Schuster announced that he would be returning to the Steelers (You can read details on his one-year deal by clicking here). Less than 24 hours later, the Giants were able to woo Kenny Golladay by offering him a four-year deal worth $72 million. 

Over the weekend, we also saw DeSean Jackson agree to terms with the Rams, where he’ll be reunited with Sean McVay. Jackson was a receiver in Washington during the three seasons (2014-16) when McVay was the team’s offensive coordinator. McVay definitely knew how to utilize Jackson as he led the NFL in yards per catch two times while playing under the Rams coach. 

Although the Rams added Jackson, they lost Josh Reynolds to free agency. The receiver, who was drafted by the Rams in 2017, is now headed for Tennessee after agreeing to a deal with the Titans

Of the top 10 free agents who were still available on Friday, four of them ended up agreeing to a deal over the weekend. Besides Golladay and Smith-Schuster, we also saw Anthony Harris (Eagles) and Xavier Rhodes (re-signing with Colts) taken off the market. 

With that in mind, let’s check out the 10 highest-ranked players from Pete Prisco’s top 100 list who are still available (they’re listed with the team they played for last season):  

1. Melvin Ingram (Chargers)
2. Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers)
3. Jadeveon Clowney (Titans)
4. Eric Wilson (Vikings)
5. Sammy Watkins (Chiefs)
6. Kevin King (Packers)
7. Austin Reiter (Chiefs)
8. T.Y. Hilton (Colts)
9. Russell Okung (Panthers)
10. Richard Sherman (49ers)

Remember, by the time you read this newsletter, there’s a very real chance that someone on this list could have already signed and if that happens, you can find out where they signed by clicking here and checking out our free agent tracker. We also have a live blog that will cover all signings AND trades as they happen and you can check that out by clicking here. 

5. NFL free agency grades

After a wild first week of free agency, now seems like a good time to hand out some grades, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do here. CBSSports.com NFL writers Cody Benjamin and Jordan Dajani locked themselves in a small room over the weekend so that they could get these grades done, so let’s check them out. 

I’m going to share the four teams that graded out the best and the one team that got a “D.”

Best grades
Jets (A): “Corey Davis and Carl Lawson can be top 15 players at premium positions, and both instantly make the Jets better. Jarrad Davis’ deal is a little rich, but he’s a high-upside plug-in, too.”

Browns (A): “Somehow, they got John Johnson — one of the top young safeties on the market — at great value. Finally, Cleveland has itself a play-making leader for the back end of its secondary. Takk McKinley is just fine as a high-upside flyer, too. Troy Hill helps solidify the secondary as well.”

Buccaneers (A): “The reigning champs knocked it out of the park. To retain all their key free agents, save for maybe Leonard Fournette, is a minor miracle.”

Washington (A): Their grade gets a boost because of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who alone offers a rather sizable upgrade over Alex Smith. But they’ve got plenty of holes left to address, such as out wide and, frankly, in the QB room, where they still need a long-term option.”

Worst grades
Bears (D): “Is Andy Dalton really the answer at QB? Also, it’s good they want to patch things up with A-Rob, but unless they’re going to pony up serious dough (and give him a good QB, too), they may end up taking trade calls for him anyway.”

I give their grade of the Bears a “D”. Any team that signs Andy Dalton gets an “A” in my book. Am I the biggest Andy Dalton homer on the planet? Yes, but I promise that didn’t have any impact on my judgment here. 

Also, since you’re probably wondering, the Patriots were given a “B” for their unexpected $250 million splurge. To check out how the other 27 teams did, be sure to click here.  

6. Rapid-fire roundup

Phillip Lindsay
Getty Images

I thought maybe there wouldn’t be any NFL news over the weekend — because everyone would be watching the NCAA Tournament — but I was wrong. As a matter off fact, there was so much news that I’m starting to think that no one in the NFL even knows there’s a tournament going on.

Here’s a roundup covering everything you might have missed over the weekend.  

  • Texans add another QB. The Texans pulled off a trade for a quarterback on Friday when they acquired Ryan Finley from the Bengals. The team has now added two quarterbacks over the past week (Tyrod Taylor was the other one). 
  • Phillip Lindsay headed to Houston. Lindsay surprisingly became a free agent last week, but he wasn’t a free agent for long and that’s because the running back agreed to a one-year deal with the Texans. 
  • Chris Carson returning to Seattle. The Seahawks decided to let Carson test free agency this year and the gamble paid off, because Carson didn’t like what he saw out in the wild. The running back has agreed to a two-year deal worth close to $15 million. 
  • Kyle Fuller lands deal with Broncos. Fuller unexpectedly became available during free agency when the Bears decided to cut him and Denver didn’t wait long to pounce. The Broncos beefed up their secondary by agreeing with Fuller on a one-year deal worth up to $9.5 million. 
  • Former first-round pick signs with Jets. After spending his entire career in New Orleans, Sheldon Rankins is finally on the move. The 12th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft is now in New York after agreeing to a deal with the Jets over the weekend. 
  • Former first-round pick gets cut by Dolphins. Less than two weeks after acquiring Isaiah Wilson in a trade with the Titans, the Dolphins have already cut him. The 2020 first-round pick hasn’t really shown that he’s interested in playing football. According to NFL.com, the Dolphins released him in part because he showed up late to his physical and didn’t show up for voluntary workouts that he promised to attend. 
  • Deshaun Watson has been hit with three more lawsuits. The Texans quarterback is now facing a total of 10 lawsuits that are all alleging he committed sexual misconduct and/or assault. The latest lawsuit claims that Watson committed a sexual assault as recently as this month

7. The Kicker: Dolphins trying to make us all feel super old

If you’re sensitive about your age, you’re not going to want to read this next bit of information because it’s going to make you feel super old: Every single player on the Dolphins roster is at least 13 years younger than Tom Brady and that’s because they don’t have single player on their roster over the age of 30. 

Although teams are always trying to get younger in the NFL, it seems the Dolphins have gone crazy with this strategy because every single player on their current roster is under the age of 30. The oldest player is Allen Hurns and he doesn’t turn 30 until Nov. 12. 

This means the Dolphins don’t have a single player born in the 1980s. I was born in the 1980s. I hate the Dolphins. 

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