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NFL Draft 2021: Breaking down likely first-round picks at each position reveals locks and uncertainties

NFL Draft 2021: Breaking down likely first-round picks at each position reveals locks and uncertainties

Undoubtedly, there will be positions in this 2021 NFL Draft that get overvalued. Too many players will end up pushed up boards at a certain position group, only to yield less-than-expected returns.

That’s how it goes. There is no shortage of luck and good fortune that goes into this exercise … which means bad luck is a thing, too. Injuries and unforeseen occurrences in the lives of these young men will send the outcome of this process spiraling in directions few could have predicted, to say nothing of the obvious red flags certain teams will ignore in their lust to improve their immediate football product.

The week of the draft is usually a good time to hone in on some exercises that go into putting together my one and only mock draft. In this case, looking at those 32 picks by position in terms of supply and demand and getting a sense of how those positions are likely to formulate on Thursday night. If there are six quarterbacks, that inherently means there are not going to be as many as six players at another position. Do more running backs and safeties break through this year (I doubt it)? Will the quality of depth and diversity of body types involved in this receiving class lead to more of them being pushed into the first round, or will teams see that volume and be willing to wait until Day Two for that next big run on pass catchers?

Those trends will no doubt have a significant impact on the overall structure of the 32 picks about to be made. Are some of them predictable now? Do the GMs and coaches and agents involved in this process already see them coming? Of course, one bizarre pick or two could send things spiraling in a different direction, but as it stands, here are the over/unders I’m targeting with this first round:

Quarterback (5.5) 

We know five of them are going for sure and quite likely all within the first 10 picks. I am not buying that Justin Fields has some precipitous fall. We could well see the first four selections all being QBs. The question is, does someone get into the very back end of the first round for Davis Mills or Kellen Mond? It happens with considerable frequency. My hunch is no, but then again, the lack of impact depth at positions like pass rusher make me wonder.

Running back (1.5)

I continue to get the sense that Najee Harris is going in the first round, most likely to Miami at 18. Could another running back follow? It’s not impossible, with North Carolina’s Javonte Williams getting some buzz. Not many teams are likely to consider it, though the Steelers could.

Offensive line (5.5)

There are two players worthy of top 10 consideration in Penei Sewell (Oregon) and Rashawn Slater (Northwestern). The Vikings and Chargers have done a ton of work on this group as well, and Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) and Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC) could go in that order at 13 and 14. Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State) is the next tackle up, and I would consider him a lock for the first round. And at least one of the Alabama duo of Landon Dickerson or Alex Weatherwood or Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey could hear their name called Thursday as well. My hunch is at least six go.

Tight end (1.5)

Kyle Pitts may be the best prospect in this entire draft, regardless of position … And very well could be the only tight end to go Thursday.

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Receiver (5.5)

There are three who are going in the top half of the first round (Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith) and then things get interesting. Rashod Bateman of Minnesota will go Thursday, but some late medical rumblings about Terrace Marshall, Jr. may see him slide a bit. His agent, Vincent Taylor, told me there is nothing beyond normal football wear and tear on the big and explosive wideout. Kadarius Toney’s size is an issue for some, and Elijah Moore is getting buzz, too, with Mississippi receivers having great immediate success in the NFL recently.

Cornerback (6.5)

This is another position with two blue chip prospects who will go in the first 10 or so picks (Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn), and then a more murky second and third tier. Injury concerns with Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) will likely see him slide. Georgia corners Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell are hot and I could definitely see a run on corners starting in the teens and going into the 20s.

Safety (1.5)

I am convinced TCU’s Trevon Moehrig is going in the first round and I hear a lot of people I trust linking him to the Raiders. That would make a lot of sense. Could one or two more follow? Richie Grant from UCF probably has the best shot, but this is not a high end overflowing with ballhawks.

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EDGE (5.5)

Good luck sorting this out. Teams are struggling with this group and some may opt to simply address it on Day Two, trying to hit a double instead of a HR. Kwity Paye (Michigan) and Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) will very likely be the first to go. And then out of Jaelan Phillips (Miami), Greg Rousseau (Miami), Jayson Oweh (Penn State), Joseph Ossai (Texas), Joe Tryon (Washington) and Carlos Basham Jr. (Wake Forrest) I guess three more go in some sort of order but I would be throwing darts at this point trying to pin it down. More work to go sorting this out between now and Thursday.

Defensive tackle (.5)

Just not a lot here that is getting people excited. I do believe Alabama’s Christian Barmore will go on Thursday (if the Giants trade down I could see them coming away with him with a big need at nose tackle right now). Levi Onwuzurike from Washington is another name to watch, but I could see runs on other positions keeping these numbers down on the first night.

Linebacker (5.5)

This group has been quietly getting a lot of love from front offices and could fill the gaps where defensive linemen and edge rushers are lacking. Speedy playmakers who can make plays in space are all the rage. Micah Parsons (Penn State) could go top 10 despite character issues. Arizona is among the teams that covet Zaven Collins (Tulsa). Jamin Davis (Kentucky) is a lock to go Day One based on what I am hearing, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) may be moving to safety but he’s a LB for these purposes, and as we told you a few weeks ago, teams believe Pete Werner (Ohio State) is going to go a heck of lot higher than where Mock Draft Nation is projecting, and maybe even into the mid-20s of this draft.

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