Cummings’ 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 17-32
17) Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams): Jaylen Twyman, DT Pittsburgh
It wasn’t long ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive front was one of the more respected groups in football. Of course, that was back when some people still believed Blake Bortles was a starting quarterback, so I guess it has been a while.
But I digress. The point is, defensive success at the NFL level is predicated on having a disruptive defensive front. If your defensive line can’t make the passer uncomfortable, then you have an issue that trickles to the second and third levels. With Calais Campbell gone, the Jaguars need to supplement their interior line with a fresh pass-rushing presence, and Pittsburgh’s explosive defensive lineman, Jaylen Twyman, can help with that.
18) Green Bay Packers: Rashod Bateman, WR Minnesota
Okay, so the Packers survived Week 1 with their receiving corps against a Minnesota Vikings cornerback group that fielded two rookies and a 2019 undrafted free agent, and also lacked a pass-rush boost from Danielle Hunter. Congrats, but sorry: We’re still going to draft a wide receiver.
Davante Adams is elite, no doubt about it. But behind him, there’s still no guarantee that Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard can produce consistently, and Lazard is due to become a free agent in 2021. With Jordan Love waiting in the wings, the Packers have to invest in more weapons, and adding Rashod Bateman — a true alpha with excellent contested-catch ability and athletic freedom — is a good start.
19) Tennessee Titans: Kwity Paye, EDGE Michigan
The Titans have a good thing going for now, with Jadeveon Clowney on one side of the line and Harold Landry on the other. But next year, things could change. Clowney is only on a one-year deal, and Landry heads into a contract year in 2021 with no fifth-year option to utilize. The Titans may very well be left longing on the edge again, but luckily for them, they’re in prime position to renew the cycle.
Michigan’s Kwity Paye fits the Titan mold with his hot motor and physical play style. He was one of Feldman’s Freaks earlier in the offseason, boasting historic short-area agility numbers and very good explosiveness for his 6-foot-4, 271-pound frame. With the Big Ten starting up again, and with Paye having officially opted in, he could be on his way to sealing the EDGE-1 mantle.
20) Buffalo Bills: Patrick Jones, EDGE Pittsburgh
Remember when I said Paye could be on his way to sealing the EDGE-1 mantle? Well, he’s not alone in pursuing that title. In fact, as many five edge prospects could reach that point by season’s end.
Another such player is Patrick Jones, an athletic, bendy defender for the Pittsburgh Panthers, who pairs explosiveness with a well-filled out 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame. Jones applies a hard-nosed approach with his physical traits, and he’d benefit from the environment that the Bills have created in Buffalo.
21) New York Jets (via Seahawks): Asante Samuel Jr., CB Florida State
Every early Jets pick comes with a certain pain to the soul, and the knowledge that the development of each New York selection will likely be suffocated by a life-size Adam Gase pillow.
In this sense, we all lost the Jamal Adams trade. But if New York plays their cards right, they can get a high-floor player who can withstand the dysfunction under Gase and still produce. Asante Samuel Jr. provides that kind of security at cornerback. He’s slightly undersized, but he’s a ballhawk all the way, and he has the versatility and instincts to line up in the slot or on the boundary.
22) Indianapolis Colts: Jayson Oweh, EDGE Penn State
The Colts seem to like their athletes on the edge, having picked Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay in recent years, both of whom logged Relative Athletic Scores over 9.00 at the edge rusher position. Surprisingly enough, if they were to draft Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, he’d be the best athlete of the bunch.
Rumor has it that Oweh can run a sub-4.35 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5, 257 pounds. He also has a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a 126-inch broad jump, both insane explosiveness figures for his size. The Colts could use more rotational depth on the end of the line, and Oweh can provide that and more in his first year.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Jay Tufele, DT USC
The Vikings should be competitive in the NFC playoff hunt this year, but one thing that might hold them back is their interior defensive line. It’s a weak spot on an otherwise strong and upside-laden defensive cast, but Minnesota can change that in 2021.
Jay Tufele is a stout, explosive interior lineman who has the size and athleticism to be an impact player against both the run and the pass at the NFL level, and he can help the Vikings round out what should be a productive line with Yannick Ngakoue and Danielle Hunter.
24) Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
Speed works at wide receiver, and the Eagles have a lot of it, with Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson taking up opposite ends of the field. But Jackson is getting older, and Reagor alone isn’t enough to buoy the team’s offense. Philadelphia needs another reliable receiving threat, and DeVonta Smith qualifies better than almost anyone.
Smith has enough athletic freedom to succeed at wide receiver, and he complements his mobility with sharp movements and precise route-running nuance. His hands are also rock-solid, a quality that should be valued generously in Philadelphia.
25) Pittsburgh Steelers: Jackson Carman, OT Clemson
The Steelers have uncertainty unfolding at their tackle positions. On the left side, Alejandro Villanueva turns 32 years old soon and hits free agency in 2021. And on the right side, Zach Banner, the team’s initial starting right tackle, tore his ACL, leaving the job to unproven 2018 third-round pick Chukwuma Okorafor.
Regardless of Pittsburgh’s confidence in their younger tackles, it would be a good idea to invest more talent in the position in the spring, to both insulate Ben Roethlisberger’s remaining years, as well as prepare for the next signal caller. Clemson’s Jackson Carman, a strong, capable tackle, can give the Steelers what they need.
26) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gregory Rousseau, DE Miami
Even with Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul on the edges, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could stand to generate more pressure. Fielding a 3-4 scheme, Tampa Bay could use a lineman who can rotate in with the edge rushers, while also possessing the ability to shift inside to a three-technique defensive end position.
Gregory Rousseau is a player who has these capabilities. Sporting a massive 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame, Rousseau has the length to pry open lanes anywhere along the line, and he has enough explosiveness to be a threat on the edge from a stand-up position as well. He can stand to improve his power and torso flexibility, but his athletic makeup will provide teams with unquestionable versatility.
27) New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama
Every year, the New England Patriots seem to get by on subpar NFL receiving talent. But if you think that’s going to stop me from giving them a wide receiver in this 2021 3-round mock draft, think again.
The Patriots are a lot of fun with Cam Newton, but wouldn’t they be even more fun if they had a menacingly dynamic receiving target with the shiftiness to create open space from thin air, and the top-end speed and explosiveness to hit daylight on any given play? I rest my case for Jaylen Waddle.
28) Dallas Cowboys: Jevon Holland, S Oregon
The Cowboys’ secondary is difficult to evaluate; the cornerbacks are young and have upside, but at the safety position, there’s a clear lack of production. Dallas could use a versatile chess piece on the back end, and Jevon Holland can provide just that.
As a blitzer, a run defender, and a cover man, Holland is very proficient, and while he’s not a top-flight athlete, he has enough athleticism to produce with his instincts and his awareness at multiple levels. He’d help Dallas capitalize on a promising front seven.
29) New Orleans Saints: Nick Bolton, LB Missouri
The Saints invested enough into their linebacker group in 2020 to stay afloat for at least another year, but with Demario Davis aging, they’ll have to find another alpha soon. Luckily for them, there’s one linebacker prospect in their range who’s flying under the radar, and his name is Nick Bolton.
Bolton has all-encompassing sideline-to-sideline speed, and he plays with torrid urgency. He’s a bit undersized for a linebacker from a height and weight perspective, but his build is extremely compact, and it allows him to fly around the field and impose his will. He’s the kind of player you want at the center of your defense.
30) Baltimore Ravens: Paris Ford, S Pittsburgh
After releasing Earl Thomas, the Ravens still have a need to fill at free safety, and while DeShon Elliott still has time to win over the coaching staff, he hasn’t made an impression thus far. At the 30th pick, the Ravens can upgrade with Pittsburgh safety Paris Ford.
Ford hasn’t often been discussed in the context of the first round, but he’s every bit as deserving as other safeties on the board. Ford is an elite athlete with good size, instincts, and a penchant for playmaking. The Ravens will enjoy honing his fast, aggressive playstyle, and he’ll fit right in among one of the best secondaries in the league.
31) San Francisco 49ers: Trey Smith, OG Tennessee
The interior offensive line was a problem for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, and this was against a Cardinals defensive front that didn’t offer much-established talent aside from Chandler Jones. The 49ers’ offensive scheme calls for the line to actively generate space, and that’s something Trey Smith is somewhat of a specialist at.
Smith, a 6-foot-6, 330-pound mauler, was a first-team All-SEC honoree in 2020, standing out on a Tennessee offensive line that routinely faced off against formidable competition. Smith blends solid functional athleticism with overwhelming power and anchor strength, and he’s exactly the kind of interior blocker that’s in demand in the modern NFL.
32) Kansas City Chiefs: Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina
The Chiefs could probably just Zoom call into the draft, get their attendance points, and walk. With their first-round pick in 2021, they’ll have two options: Make a great offense better, or make a solid defense better.
I chose defense, specifically cornerback, where the depth is a little less inspiring than the rest of the roster. Jaycee Horn, an athletically well-built, instinctive defender, should be able to complete a promising young secondary that includes the underrated Charvarius Ward and the upstart rookie L’Jarius Sneed.