17. Las Vegas Raiders: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)
The Raiders haven’t had much success on their defensive line. Clelin Ferrell hasn’t made the impact they hoped he would when they took him fourth overall in 2019. Maxx Crosby had a great rookie season but wasn’t as effective in 2020. Their interior rushers of Maliek Collins and Maurice Hurst haven’t generated the push up front they need.
Enter Gregory Rousseau. Rousseau offers some inside/outside-rusher versatility that new Raiders DC Gus Bradley can shuffle around based on matchups. Rousseau is lengthy and offers plenty of athleticism and upside, something the Raiders need on their defensive line.
18. Miami Dolphins: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Dolphins were largely ineffective in 2020 with their run game, ranking 25th in EPA/rush and 24th in Rushing Success Rate. Myles Gaskin had a few bright games statistically but was largely below-average on tape. With a move back to a more power/gap-oriented rushing scheme, judging by the promotion of Eric Studesville, the Dolphins need a new runner who can run that scheme. Enter Najee Harris.
Anybody else noticing the trades between Nick Saban and the Dolphins here?
19. Washington Football Team: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame
The WFT continues to search for that coverage linebacker/safety who can handle tight ends. Adding a versatile linebacker/safety hybrid that can cover the nickel and drop over tight ends as a Hook or Apex would be invaluable for DC Jack Del Rio.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fits that mold perfectly. The WFT defense was fantastic last season, and adding another weapon on defense would help take them even further.
20. Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The future of Allen Robinson is up in the air in Chicago at this stage. He might be franchise-tagged, but he might also not want to play in Chicago anymore and could even be a tag-and-trade candidate (spoiler alert). They got some good play out of Darnell Mooney, but they need another presence in that receiving corps, ideally one who commands the top corners.
Rashod Bateman has uber-reliable hands, has shown he can run practically every route in the book, and gets open and dominates DBs. He’s the perfect Allen Robinson replacement in this draft class.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
The popular pick here has been a tackle. Indeed, I put a tackle here in my last 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. However, it seems likely the Colts will spend on a left tackle in free agency or look elsewhere early. I’m not a fan of any of the pass rushers here that fit what Chris Ballard likes at that spot, so corner is the next spot to hit.
Ballard loves lengthy corners who tackle well. Ifeatu Melifonwu measured at 6’2″ with 32-inch arms, something Ballard will covet. His length and fluidity give him an advantage in the Colts’ zone and press-heavy scheme.
22. Tennessee Titans: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Titans were abysmal rushing the passer in 2020, ranking 31st in pressure rate and accumulating just 19 sacks. The Jadeveon Clowney signing didn’t pay off the way they wanted it to, and Harold Landry can only do so much. Once again, Clowney is a free agent and the Titans are searching for their next top pass rusher.
Kwity Paye is a twitchy pass rusher who is excellent against the run and competes with an incredible motor. With some further seasoning, Paye and Landry can be a top-tier pass-rush duo.
23. New York Jets: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
With the Jets selecting a quarterback above, time to shift to building around said quarterback. With Mekhi Becton handling the left tackle spot, the Jets draft their right tackle in Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins.
Jenkins isn’t super long, but he plays with such a nasty streak and power that he makes up for it. With Becton on one side and Jenkins on the other, the Jets secure their tackle spots.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
This pick is popular in some mock drafts but doesn’t appear to be popular among fans. However, Zaven Collins makes plenty of sense for the Steelers. The Steelers need a coverage linebacker next to Devin Bush.
Collins fits in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense in a variety of roles. His versatility as a hybrid linebacker can keep him on the field when the Steelers go into nickel and dime packages as well.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Jaguars’ new defensive coordinator, Joe Cullen, was the defensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens for the last four seasons. Before that, Cullen worked with players like Gerald McCoy, Tyson Alualu, Phil Taylor, Terrance Knighton, and William Gholston while coaching for the Buccaneers, Browns, and Jaguars. Cullen knows the importance of the defensive line in controlling games.
Jacksonville requires an overhaul along the interior of their defensive line. While Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson are their outside rushers for the future, interior defenders like Taven Bryan, Adam Gotsis, Abry Jones, and DaVon Hamilton haven’t provided that pass rush up front. Gotsis and Jones are impending free agents as well, and it’s tough to see them rejoining the team. As a result, the Jaguars look for a juiced-up interior pass rusher in Christian Barmore.
26. Cleveland Browns: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Cleveland Browns need to get faster in their secondary. Their secondary got taken advantage of repeatedly last season, and Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo are pending free agents. While the Browns got a good player in Ronnie Harrison, Grant Delpit is TBD coming off an injury.
The Browns favor multiple defensive back sets, and Trevon Moehrig is a versatile coverage safety who starts right away.
27. Carolina Panthers (via BAL)*: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Trade! The Carolina Panthers trade picks 39, 113, and a 2022 second-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for picks 27 and 131.
There’s just too much smoke about Mac Jones, especially with the Carolina Panthers, for me to ignore it. While it’s a move that’s more than questionable in my eyes, the Panthers move up to get their guy at quarterback. Conveniently, they leapfrog the Saints to do so in a minor act of revenge after the Tommy Stevens episode last year.
The Panthers sound just about fed up with Teddy Bridgewater, and while Mac Jones is virtually identical, this one doesn’t have a $63 million contract on the books!
28. New Orleans Saints: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Well, the Saints don’t end up with a QB in this 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, so they turn to another position of need. While they’ll likely extend Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Robinson and Janoris Jenkins might end up being cut to save cap space, and other corners like P.J. Williams, Justin Hardee, and Johnson Bademosi are pending free agents. The Saints will need some more talent in this room.
Greg Newsome’s IQ and fluidity stand out on tape, and he’s got a knack for disrupting receivers at the catch point. He’s an advanced technician at the corner position, something that will pair well with Lattimore on the opposite side of the field.
29. Green Bay Packers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/G, USC
The Packers could go in several different ways in this year’s draft. To me, the most viable route is to replace their free agents and rebuild the offensive line. Corey Linsley likely goes on to be one of the highest-paid centers (in free agency). While Elgton Jenkins can fill that role, that leaves a guard spot open.
To complicate matters, right tackle Rick Wagner is no longer on the team. Lucas Patrick only has a year left on his deal. As such, there are plenty of spots open for the Packers to consider. Luckily, Alijah Vera-Tucker has played multiple roles in college from right guard to left guard to left tackle. Adding his versatility and athleticism to the Green Bay offensive line would be a boon to their offensive line.
30. Buffalo Bills: Jalen Mayfield, OT/G, Michigan
The Bills also have some holes to fill on their offensive line. Daryl Williams, Jon Feliciano, Ike Boettger, Ty Nsekhe, and Brian Winters are all impending free agents. The team is a little strapped on cap space, so it’s likely most, if not all, of these names will be gone. Luckily, this 2021 NFL Draft has plenty of talent along the offensive line.
Jalen Mayfield has played tackle at a high level in college, but some have projected him inside to guard as well. The Bills have had success with versatile players like that in recent memory (Cody Ford and Daryl Williams) — Mayfield will fit right in.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Leatherwood, OT/G, Alabama
There’s no guarantee that Eric Fisher is 100% in time for the next season. Even if he is, the Chiefs need to think about the future of their offensive tackle positions.
Alex Leatherwood can either start at tackle or kick inside to guard for a year next to Eric Fisher.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Leonard Fournette had some good moments down the stretch in the playoffs, but with how many free agents the Buccaneers have and the limited cap space they have to work with, it’s a poor decision to allocate that towards Fournette.
The Buccaneers need a pass-catching back, and adding Travis Etienne’s explosiveness to that Tampa Bay offense takes them to another level.