Cummings’ 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 17-32
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Las Vegas’ sack production has been horrendous in 2020, and it’s one reason why they can’t get over the hump in a tense AFC playoff race. On the edge, they may be inclined to see if Maxx Crosby can get his numbers back up, and they also may wait to see if first-round pick Clelin Ferrell can carry over his productive run defense into the passing game.
But regardless of what happens on the outside, the Raiders need an influx of talent on the interior defensive line. And while Marvin Wilson hasn’t been as productive as expected this year, he’s still the premier talent in an underwhelming interior class. Wilson, despite some inconsistency in 2020, has the size and explosiveness necessary to be molded into a starter, and at the 17th pick, his upside presents enough value to justify the selection.
18. Chicago Bears: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Just got the word from chief: Mitchell Trubisky ain’t it, and Nick Foles ain’t it, either. The Bears’ persistence at staying mediocre at the quarterback position is a fun storyline, but for their well-being, they need to do everything they can to improve under center in 2021 legitimately. Given that they may ultimately be picking in the late teens, the free agency market might be more attractive for Ryan Pace. But here, they’re able to snag the fifth quarterback in Round 1, Alabama’s Mac Jones.
The drawback with Jones is that he isn’t as proactive of an athlete as the other first-round passers in this class, but he’s a smart quarterback with very good processing skills and ball placement. Because of his mediocre athleticism and good-not-great arm strength, I don’t grade him as a first-round player. Still, if he keeps producing the way he has been, he’ll inevitably get into the conversation in a league that values quality quarterback play at a premium.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Travis Fulgham’s emergence has been a gift for the Philadelphia Eagles in a season that otherwise hasn’t gone according to plan for all the wrong reasons. With that being said, however, the Eagles should not take for granted the need to further supplement their receiving core. The 2021 NFL Draft should present a priceless opportunity to add talent there, and at No. 19, they’re in a good spot.
In this mock, LSU standout Ja’Marr Chase remains unselected at the Eagles’ pick, and his availability makes for an easy choice. Chase doesn’t have elite athleticism, and he’s only 6-foot-0, 208, but he brings with him near infallibility at the catch point, and his toughness, body control, and focus should make him an early favorite of Carson Wentz, provided he’s still the Eagles’ quarterback in 2021.
20. Cleveland Browns: Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
The Browns’ offense was the source of ire in the team’s latest loss, but in actuality, the defense has been the source of many of the team’s struggles. Inconsistency from the defensive unit has often forced the offense to get into high-scoring situations, and moving forward, they’ll need to overhaul that side of the ball if they want to compete in 2021.
From a foundational standpoint, one area that could help improvements trickle to all levels of the defense, if addressed, is edge rusher. Aside from Myles Garrett, who’s been dominant, the Browns don’t have another edge presence. Jayson Oweh might be exactly what they’re looking for. He’s an elite athletic specimen who’s gotten off to a fast start in 2020, and his length and mind-boggling short-range explosiveness can compound the discomfort of any quarterback who has to face Garrett.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
My condolences to the Jaguars fans in this 2021 3-round NFL Mock Draft. Twice now, they’ve missed out on their quarterback at optimal value, and now at pick No. 21, they have a crucial decision to make. Jacksonville could reach for a signal-caller like Kyle Trask or Brock Purdy, but that hardly seems like a good idea, especially after seeing Purdy struggle and Trask display his limitations, despite his statistical success.
So for their second-straight first-round pick, Jacksonville is once again in quarterback-support mode. If they can’t grab the franchise passer they want, why not add to his arsenal so that when he arrives, his job is easier? They got his franchise left tackle earlier, and now, they add an elite run-after-catch threat with similarly explosive downfield ability in Purdue’s Rondale Moore.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The Colts have both Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith at tackle at least through 2021, but given Castonzo’s age and slight dip in quality in 2020, and given Indianapolis’ relative solidity throughout the rest of the roster, it feels productive to address the team’s future at tackle in the first round here.
Only Penei Sewell has gone off the board at the tackle position, and thus, there’s still a wealth of talent available for Frank Reich to choose from. One player who’ll likely go in Round 1 is Liam Eichenberg. Eichenberg has been nearly dominant for the Fighting Irish this season, and his functional mobility, combined with his size, anchor, and mauling motor, makes him a long-term starting candidate once Castonzo hangs up his cleats.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma
Despite their legitimate contention in the NFC West playoff race, the Arizona Cardinals are far from a finished product. There are several different areas they could pursue here. Ultimately, in this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, I saw the offensive line as the best mesh of need and value, as Arizona has some withstanding uncertainty both at the tackle spots and on the interior.
Here, the Cardinals address the interior. Mason Cole, an average starter at center, enters a contract year in 2021, and Justin Pugh and Justin Murray make for a slightly underwhelming guard duo. Arizona can improve their depth and quality of starting play by adding Creed Humphrey, an aggressive blocker with a good center of gravity, who has the traits to excel at center, but play anywhere on the interior.
24. Baltimore Ravens: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
The 2021 edge class is polarizing in the best kind of way; there isn’t an established top dog, and there’s very little consensus as to how the position will be ranked. But there’s so much top-tier athletic talent to choose from, and it could wind up being one of the better classes in recent memory, depending on how its players develop. Texas’ Joseph Ossai embodies this dichotomy.
The Longhorns standout wasn’t even an edge rusher in 2019, and his status diluted his draft stock on the surface level, but a position switch has unleashed a dominant new form of Ossai in 2020, and he’s quickly rising up the ranks at the edge rusher position. Tony Pauline recently labeled Ossai as an ascending second-round pick, and I’m going to take it one step further. With his explosiveness, length, bend, and playmaking ability, Ossai is worthy of a late first-round selection.
25. Green Bay Packers: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Packers have, at least for now, staved off the critics who doomed their offense in 2020 after watching the team neglect its receiving core in the 2020 NFL Draft. Aaron Rodgers’ MVP-caliber performance has elevated the unit as a whole, but that doesn’t mean wide receiver isn’t still a need. Whether Green Bay will address WR or another position like linebacker or tackle in the first round will come down to value, and here, the best value remains at wide receiver. It’s Rashod Bateman.
Dalton Miller compared Rashod Bateman to Chargers Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen earlier this year, and that comparison holds a lot of weight, even two weeks into the 2020 season. Bateman has been somewhat diluted by Minnesota’s run-heavy offense and Tanner Morgan’s subpar quarterback play, but the receiver still catches whatever comes his way, and he’s still a high-floor option in the NFL Draft with productive NFL upside.
26. Tennessee Titans: Aidan Hutchinson, DL, Michigan
For teams utilizing variations of the 3-4 defensive scheme, there exists a continuous need for players who have the versatility to line up at the three-technique spot and rush the edge on any given play. That’s the kind of versatility that Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson can provide.
At 6-foot-6, 269, Hutchinson has impressive size and length, and he’s also very powerful at the point of attack. His high motor allows him to find production wherever he lines up, and although he hasn’t put much on the stat sheet yet in 2020, he has traits that can impact when utilized in the right role. Once he further refines his hand techniques, he can be a game-changer.
27. New Orleans Saints: Caden Sterns, S, Texas
The Saints have definite needs moving into the twilight of Drew Brees’ career, but their standing as one of the league’s best teams places them at odds with their ideal draft situation. New Orleans won’t pick early enough to capitalize on the best value at their most needy positions, so they’ll have to play the board, be patient, and simply take what they can get.
Here, there isn’t overwhelmingly great value at quarterback or wide receiver, and linebacker may take a bit of a backseat after the team’s trade for Kwon Alexander. One position that can be addressed with value here is safety, with Marcus Williams entering free agency after this season. Texas’ Caden Sterns can help fill the athleticism void if Williams leaves, and he’s proven his ability to make plays on the ball in coverage.
28. Buffalo Bills: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
The Bills have done a good job supplementing their pressure and sack production with creative blitzes, but at the end of the day, they could still use a long-term upgrade on the edge. Both of their starters, Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, are at least 32 years old. In recent weeks, the lack of consistency on the edge has impeded the defense’s overall production.
While there are still veteran mentors in the locker room, Buffalo should look to add a future starting pass rusher. Here at No. 28, Pittsburgh’s Patrick Jones II fits what they need. Jones, a stellar athlete with good size and power, has 7.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss so far this season, and his proactivity as a playmaker on the line should grant him early success with the AFC East’s new leader.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Azeez Ojulari is only a redshirt sophomore, but he’s quickly becoming one of the most exciting edge prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft — and that’s saying something. In just five games this season, he’s nearly matched his sack total from an 11-game slate in 2019, and he’s also tacked on 6.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and two pass deflections.
Ojulari is a bit undersized as a pass rusher, standing at around 6-foot-3, 240, but he offers very impressive burst and flexibility around the corner, and once he hits the open pocket, he has tremendous acceleration, which allows him to close plays. With Shaquil Barrett scheduled to hit free agency and the productive Jason Pierre-Paul growing older, Ojulari is an investment in the present and the future, all at once.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
With Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson set to hit free agency soon, the Kansas City Chiefs will have to undergo standard maintenance of their skill position cast. For Andy Reid, this task isn’t a chore, but instead, a jovial exercise, aimed at deciphering how he can terrorize NFL defenses for another half-decade.
Having threats like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Mecole Hardman still under contract will be valuable, but the Chiefs will need to reinvest in a boundary threat with the size and speed to create mismatches. LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. fits that profile; aside from an underwhelming performance against Auburn, he’s been dominant in 2020, and he has enough of every skill to be a welcoming, versatile addition for Reid’s offense.
31. New York Jets (via SEA): Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
It’s a good thing the Jets got a first-round pick for Jamal Adams because they certainly need at least two. Resetting at quarterback was the primary objective for New York in this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, but the rest of the roster needs a great deal of restructuring as well.
The secondary, in particular, is an area of concern for New York. While the value is a little uncertain here at the 31st pick, one player who provides more than enough with his upside is Georgia’s Tyson Campbell. Campbell, an athletic 6-foot-2, 196-pound cornerback, has shown progression in 2020, producing on the ball at his highest clip yet. With his combination of disruptive length and 4.4 speed, he’s a sound investment for any rebuilding team.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
With the future uncertain at offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it seems logical to address that position with the final pick in Round 1. Going further, the Steelers crave a “next man up” mentality from their players, and perhaps no 2021 tackle embodies that theme more than Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood.
With a solid combination of functional mobility and power, Leatherwood, standing at 6-foot-6, 312, has the traits to play at both tackle and guard. This versatility should give him added appeal for the Steelers’ front office, but given his fundamental traits, Pittsburgh should be able to develop him into a quality player wherever they need him.